Google onwer Alphabet is selling off two major players in the world of robotics, Boston Dynamics and Schaft to a subsidiary of Japanese company SoftBank.
SoftBank also owns chip maker ARM which is making waves in building chips for the development of AI. Obviously the two of those things coming together sounds more than a little like the genesis of Skynet, but we’re sure it’ll be fine.
There are already some amazing advancements happening in the field of robotics, and as long as the robots continue to be allied with humans, robotics could be revolutionary in all manner of fields, like emergency rescue, manufacturing, medicine and more.
These are not the droids you’re looking for…
Boston Dynamics is arguably the more famous of the two being sold, thanks to videos of their deeply unsettling robots being kicked going viral. If you’ve never watched one of these videos, we have included one below for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy. The kicking starts at about twenty seconds in.
Schaft is the more obscure of the two. It was making good progress in the field of bipedal robotics (walking on two legs) and had shown some impressive results (mildly terrifying video of that below too) before going quiet after being purchased by Google.
Bipedal robots seem like they should be an easy endeavour, given how natural being bipedal seems to us, but according to Schaft’s (now deleted) website: “One of the big problems of humanoid robots is the weakness of robot’s power. . . . The strongest robot with electric motor can generate one tenth power as much as actual human beings can generate. Our team’s robot can generate ten times as much as the strongest robot, which means that our robots can generate the same power of an actual human being can generate.”
Boston Dynamics has also made remarkable progress in the field of bipedal, humanoid robotics with its Atlas robot. Here’s a video of Atlas doing some remarkably human things, although in true Boston Dynamics style it is doing them while a guy bothers it with a hockey stick.
In a statement posted on the SoftBank website, Boston Dynamic’s CEO Marc Raibert says of the acquisition: “We at Boston Dynamics are excited to be part of SoftBank’s bold vision and its position creating the next technology revolution, and we share SoftBank’s belief that advances in technology should be for the benefit of humanity.”