Google buying a robot-zombie army is terrifyingly cool

Google has just bought Boston Dynamics, the company that makes those incredibly disturbing robots that walk like something between a dog, centipede, and zombie. Since Android-founder Andy Rubin is now running the mecha division at Google, maybe this will now fall under his purview (Androids running Android). Either way, it's an interesting play. John Markoff for the New York Times:

Google confirmed on Friday that it had completed the acquisition of Boston Dynamics, an engineering company that has designed mobile research robots for the Pentagon. The company, based in Waltham, Mass., has gained an international reputation for machines that walk with an uncanny sense of balance and even — cheetahlike — run faster than the fastest humans.

BigDog, Cheetah, WildCat and Atlas are just some of the creatures now reporting directly to Google. How they handle the military aspects - beyond a desire to "bring order to the Galaxy", of course - will be interesting to see. I'm more looking forward to Google providing voice-controlled house search: "Okay Google Fetch me a beer!" and the nightmarebot scurries off across the wall to track that down for you. And based on past behavior, Google will ship a iOS app for it as well!

(Also noteworthy, Eric Schmidt, who thinks drones are creepy is apparently fine with zombie robots. Like shame is a good thing to have!)

Does that future appeal to you, or just scare the Sarah Connor-crap out of you?

Source: New York Time via Android Central

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

More Posts



← Previously

Software, like all great works, needs to be criticized

Next up →

iTunes Radio vs Spotify free: Which free mobile music service is best?

Reader comments

Google buying a robot-zombie army is terrifyingly cool


Hey, look... It's AMEE's great grand mother! Here kitty, kit- yraargh!

Sent from the iMore App

I can't remember what forum I saw it on but it was pretty fun. To paraphrase, it said Amazon will "hire" drones to deliver packages and Google will "hire" robotic dogs to help with Street View.

Skynet jokes obscure how truly disruptive this will be, whether Google gets there first, or somebody else. "Robot-zombie" is in the headline, because these robots are comparatively brainless, but it seems reasonable to speculate Google will look to pair these physically capable shells with the sensor and AI research they have been refining for years. Brainless robots have found homes in repetitive tasks; even modest cognitive gains would drastically increase the number and types of jobs they can do, from cab driving to search-and-rescue to at least some surgeries. (Yes, some tasks are further off than others)

This is scientific progress, neither good nor bad in and of itself - it is, however, inevitable, as the capabilities improve to a cost-effective point. What matters is how our societies react to these shifts and displacements. That reaction could be a lot more fundamental, and more disturbing, than visions of T-1000s.

Google is prepping for a fleet of drones to make updating their mapping service - instantaneous!

Sent from the iMore App

This is incredibly sinister - the 'bots look like perfect objects to break up a peaceful demo

Sent from the iMore App

When I look at the article title... Are they really robot-"zombies"? Wouldn't a robot zombie suffer from oxidation and fluid leaking to some extent?

Sent from the iMore App

What in the world ... err ... F*** ... a search company which begs / cheats their visitors to click here and there to make $$ .... freaks out about Amazon's drone delivery proposal .... copies Apple and each and every tech company in the universe by me-too ... me-too .... and so on..... wants to do with robots?!!!

Andy Rubin's allownaces has been increased by Larry and The L Team. I guess his half-assed , half-shit Android OS is gonna be injected in to these robots ... and Lord help us.

Fanboy much? Maybe Google will be nice and give Apple a Steve Jobs Droid in 10 years when when they start selling robots like in The Jetsons. The Steve Droid can welcome people into the Apple Spaceship.

Great these things are gonna malfunction and have fragmented operating systems. Why couldn't Apple have bought them? At least we would know they be working as intended.

Hopefully they would be able to make them a bit quieter for street view because it would be a pain to hear that noise through the neighborhood on my day off while in sleeping. It would also be interesting if like was mentioned in another comment street view got massive updates faster

Sent from the iMore App