As of Monday, Google is officially trading as Alphabet, meaning that companies falling outside of the tech giant’s core businesses (Robots! Drones!) now have more breathing room to operate independently and move faster.
There have been reports that Google will create a separate branch for robotics under the newly formed Alphabet. This isn’t a huge surprise, since most of their robotics companies already operate within one division: Google X.
But as Alphabet puts the spotlight on its robotics companies, it’s worth highlighting what technology they have developed so far under the Google umbrella. You’ll notice there is a huge range when it comes to the types of robots Alphabet owns.
From robots capable of hitting top speeds to robots that create special effects, these robots’ different skills highlight how Google has slowly been working to corner the robotics market. Now that they are all under Alphabet, the tech-giant could dominate the robotics industry.
Here’s a list of the coolest robots now managed by Alphabet and what they do:
The Cheetah Robot is the fastest legged robot in the world. The Cheetah Robot can get to a speed of 29 miles per hour, crushing a 13.1 mile-per-hour speed record set by MIT in 1989. However, the Cheetah Robot cannot run untethered.
Boston Dynamics works with DARPA and the US Army, Navy, and Marine Corps to build extraordinarily advanced robots. They were acquired by Google December 10, 2013, the same month they acquired several others robotics companies.
Meka is known for creating robots meant to work around humans. The Dreamer, pictured above, is purposefully designed to be super cute. It has expressive eyes that were inspired by anime and ears that were inspired by puppies.
The head is designed to to elicit trust with mechatronic devices and to show focus without coming off as intimidating.
Before it was acquired, Meka was a joint venture with a company called Redwood Robotics (the venture also included Willow Garage, a robotics research lab, and SRI, an artificial intelligence research company). Both Meka and Redwood Robotics were acquired by Google December 5, 2013 and December 3, 2013, respectively. They are currently integrated with Google X.
Google swiped Titan Aerospace, which makes the solar-powered drones seen above, from Facebook who was trying to buy them for $US60 million. The drones are intended to fly nonstop for years. The Titan Aerospace Solara 50 has a wingspan of 150 feet and is equipped with 3,000 solar cells, which can provide 7 kW of electricity to stay airborne for five years.
The drones are integrated with Google's Project Loon to beam internet to parts of the world that aren't connected. The drones also take aerial photos.
The WildCat Robot is just one of several robots designed by Boston Dynamics with assistance from DARPA. It's designed to reach top speeds on all types of terrain but can get as high as 16 miles per hour on flat land. The WildCat is the second iteration of the Cheetah Robot.
It may not be the most glamorous robot owned under Alphabet, but the YASKAWA Motoman Robot has human-like perception that allows it to perform industrial tasks.
Loading and unloading trucks is a tedious task that can cause injuries in the workplace, but the YASKAWA Motoman can unload trucks and be programmed to recognise certain objects. Its ability to discern one object from another allows it to perform organizational tasks in a quick and efficient way.
Google acquired SCHAFT, a private company born out of Tokyo, after seeing its robot dominate the DARPA Robotics Challenge in 2013. The 209-pound bipedal robot is capable of navigating difficult feats, from climbing ladders to walking over difficult terrain. SCHAFT robotics was acquired December 2, 2013.
To create the effect of weightlessness in the movie 'Gravity,' Bot & Dolly used a seven-axis, motion-controlled robot dubbed Iris. The 3,000-pound robots were shipped on a cargo plane to London, where they moved around actress Sandra Bullock in a way that matched computer-generated sequences of a spacecraft interior or of a spacesuit hurtling toward earth, Bloomberg reported.
The design and engineering studio was acquired December 7, 2013 and integrates with Google X.
Created by Boston Dynamics, Spot helps the Marines the same way an actual dog would -- by scouting for danger and alerting the Marines whether it is safe or not to advance. Weighing in at 160 pounds, Spot is controlled by a game controller attached to a laptop. The operator can be as much as 500 meters (less than half a mile) away. Spot was tested by Boston Dynamics, DARPA and the Marine at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia September 16.
The Meka M1 Mobile Manipulator is a humanoid robot with two dexterous arms. It can lift just over three pounds and can move around on its four wheels. Like Meka's Dreamer Robot, it is also designed to work around humans.
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