In 2014, Andy Rubin – then head of Google’s robotics department was paid a reported $90 Million exit package after sexual misconduct allegations were brought against him. Prior to his exit, the tech giant spent millions of dollars in acquiring six robotics start-ups, which were later sold or liquidated.
However, after this setback, Google is ready to get back into the world of robotics. The revamped robotics program will focus more on simple machines that can perform and learn tasks through machine learning. This is a far cry from the human and dog-like robots of Boston Dynamics, the most famous of the robotics businesses that Google parent company Alphabet sold to SoftBank in 2017.
Robotics at Google is now led by Vincent Vanhoucke. Vincent is a seasoned Googler, who previously helped build the Google Brain which researches artificial intelligence. Using machine learning, the robotics team told The New York Times that its new creations will be able to learn skills independently, like how to sort through a bin of objects by type.
This time around, the tech giant is not trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead, it is using some simpler, less human-like robots built by other companies and training them to do new tasks, according to a report published by the Times. For example, researchers in one part of the lab are training a mobile robot sold by a startup called Fetch to navigate spaces with which it’s not yet familiar.
This sort of knowledge could be handy in a manufacturing facility, where robots could significantly cut down the costs incurred by maintaining a human workforce. Many leading companies are trying to put these advancements in technology to this use. Amazon, for example, already uses robots to automate parts of its distribution process.
Analysts and influencers now have all eyes on Google as it tries to a breakthrough in this rather competitive field.