From Android to AI: Google's bot plot revealed

Google and Foxconn are paving the way for our eventual overlords. Kinda makes you long for Amazon drones, doesn't it?

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Google's robot family tree

In all, Google acquired eight robotics companies last year, and the technologies those companies represent differ widely. There's Redwood Robotics, which manufactures mainly arms; Japanese Schaft, which build high-efficiency servos and arms; Industrial Perception, which does 3D vision-controlled robotics; Bot & Dolly that combines advanced motion control with robotics; Holomni that builds omnidirectional vehicle tech; Autofuss to add visual artistry to the engineering process; and Meka, a company working on designing friendly-looking robot faces for more positive human interaction so that we'll stay calm and happy when we're herded into the matrix.

Combining all these technologies into an advanced line of Googlebots is now the job of Andy Rubin, who has been given control of a Google-owned company with the mysteriously inapplicable name Moonshot. Rubin soared to fame when he spearheaded development of Google's Android mobile OS, which is the kind of foreshadowing that should have warned us.

For now, Google is claiming its robot hordes will only be aimed at putting factory laborers out of work, specifically in foreign countries for whom Americans have no empathy. But rumors indicate and are potentially born out when you consider Google's acquisition portfolio that the company is looking at autonomous cars (aka land drones -- so long, Uber) and airborne delivery drones à la the Bezos Dream.

Termites shall lead the way

Those are the technologies Google has snapped up to date. A lot more bot technology is out there waiting to become Google M&A meals. For one, there's the semi-mythical love robot that chases hapless female scientists. More realistically, some foresight-lacking engineers at Harvard recently built termite-based bots that can organize without human intervention and build complex structures, including mobilized automatic weapons and robot-controlled prison camps. Watching them is like seeing an electronic version of the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony -- a real-life illustration of control and organization only a hive mind can match.

Google may not need Harvard's self-leading termite bots -- it recently purchased an artificial intelligence company with a foreboding name: DeepMind. Coincidentally, it's also the perfect title for the eventual robot superbrain emperor that Will Smith, Keanu Reeves, or maybe Tom Selleck will need to vanquish, so we can throw off the robot bio-battery yoke and take back our lives and our refrigerators. DeepMind has probably already seized control of Larry and Sergey, so any day now you can expect a knock on the door from a smiling Android with a Google logo on its forehead asking politely that you please get in the tear-stained truck, pay no mind to the whimpering therein.

All eyes on Amazon

Given Google's totally unnecessary military funding (it already shares most of the world's money supply with Apple and Microsoft), I'm reconsidering my anti-Amazon drone position. Jeff Bezos may be the only rebel-bot building force on our doomed earth that will be able to fight on the Idaho militia's side when the brown stuff eventually hits the spinning propellers. Unfortunately, if he doesn't switch development goals, all Amazon will be able to do is deliver defective Blu-ray disks to enemy soldiers.

I realize now that we're not long for this world. Biology is obsolete. Servos are the arms of the future, and we're on our way out. The giant layoff of the human condition is looming, so we better enjoy the time we have left. For my part, I'm going take a walk through Central Park and watch the children play, the junkies sleep, or maybe the rollerbladers crash, then get some street meat at a sidewalk cart and breathe in the free air, maybe buy some tinfoil -- you know, celebrate life at its fullest.

This article, "From Android to AI: Google's bot plot revealed," was originally published at Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, follow Cringely on Twitter, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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