The man behind Google’s robotics effort is no other than Andy Rubin, who previously led its Android division. For now, Google’s robots aren’t aimed at consumers — instead they will reportedly be targeted at manufacturing in areas such as electronics assembly, and will likely be used in retailing to compete with companies like Amazon.
Google executives acknowledge that robotic vision is a “moonshot.” But it appears to be more realistic than Amazon’s proposed drone delivery service, which Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, revealed in a television interview the evening before one of the biggest online shopping days of the year.
Rubin tells the NYT that Google’s robotics efforts should be viewed as a ten-year vision. The company has secretly acquired seven robotics-related companies in the US and Japan, which have technologies capable of creating a mobile robot. Rubin notes that breakthroughs are still needed for software and sensors, but hardware issues like moving hands and arms have been solved.
Google is forming a robotics group that will be based initially in Palo Alto, with an office in Japan. Rubin has started hiring roboticists and will rope in other Google programmers as well.
Google CEO Larry Page says in a Google+ update that he is excited about the Rubin’s project. “His last big bet, Android, started off as a crazy idea that ended up putting a supercomputer in hundreds of millions of pockets. It is still very early days for this, but I can’t wait to see the progress,” Page says.
Earlier this year, Andy Rubin stepped down as head of the company’s Android smartphone division. He then convinced Google’s founders, Sergey Brin and Mr. Page, that the time is now right for such a venture, and they have opened Google’s checkbook to back him. He declined to say how much the company would spend.