Amazon isn't the only big Internet firm in the robotics game: Google is at work on some literal androids. As part of the effort, it has quietly bought up seven US and Japanese tech companies in the past half-year, the New York Times reports. The company is hoping to build robots that can work on manufacturing as well as retail applications. "The opportunity is massive," says an MIT researcher. Perhaps appropriately, the man in charge is Andy Rubin, who built the Android smartphone software.
He has exited the Android team to focus on his robotic work. One goal, for instance, might be a windshield wiper that "knows" when to turn on. The Times also points out a pair of "life-size humanoid robots" are hanging in a Google office. The range of newly-acquired companies include a firm that works on such humanoid devices, another that's involved in computer vision, and one that develops advanced wheels. Don't expect a robot butler to be opening your door next year, however. "Like any moonshot, you have to think of time as a factor," Rubin says. "We need enough runway and a 10-year vision." (Read more Google stories.)