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Google Buys Pentagon’s Robotics Lab

by Mike Hoffman on December 16, 2013

Big DogGoogle has acquired the robotics company that the Pentagon typically leans on to develop next generation robots doing everything from carrying troops’ gear to searching for IEDs.

Google purchased Boston Dynamics as part of its larger strategy to invest in robotics development. The engineer in charge of developing Android for Google, Andy Rubin, will lead this initiative.

The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — better known as DARPA — recognized the cutting edge work being done at Boston Dynamics early and has awarded multiple development contracts to the company. Boston Dynamics is working on high profile projects for the military such as the Big Dog, which is now officially named the Legged Squad Support System (LS3)  by the Marine Corps.

The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab is working with DARPA and Boston Dynamics engineers to develop the Big Dog to lighten the load for Marines and soldiers. The Big Dog is designed to traverse technical terrain while carrying 400 pounds of gear.

Google officials have said the company will still honor the remaining contracts that Boston Dynamics has with DARPA, but it seems evident that DARPA may have to find a new laboratory to develop their next robotics projects.

Of course, Google’s acquisition could be seen as a boon for military robotics based on the deep pockets Google has and the type of investments into development they plan to make.

Many of the robots that DARPA wants to develop are not specific military robots. The Big Dog is an example. If Google can develop legged robots quicker with more funding, then Marines and soldiers benefit faster potentially.

Notably, Google doesn’t have to worry about sequestration or Congressional budgets. It can use it’s large capital reserve to sink in the money necessary to advance robotics at a rapid pace.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Hunter76 December 16, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Great to see Google enter this field. They are experienced in producing excellent technical products, and they are not accustomed to sucking on the public teat.


Hector Q December 16, 2013 at 1:36 pm

They're not used to sucking on the public teat, except for when they improperly get taxpayer-subsidized NASA fuel for their corporate jets:


Hunter76 December 16, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Despite the article's headline, it sounds like H211, an exec jet management co was at heart of this "scam".


Hunter76 December 16, 2013 at 5:50 pm

On 2nd reading this article has a deeper msg. Google's not looking too hard where it's saving a small amount of money. The gov should care where it's giving it away,


blight_ December 16, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Since 2007, Nasa's Ames Research Centre, the administration's home in Silicon Valley, has been leasing space in one of its aircraft hangers to H211, a private company which manages the planes owned and leased by Google execs Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt – comprising a Boeing 757 and 767, three Gulfstream 5 private jets and a Dassult alpha jet (classified by aircraft books as a "light attack jet").

The company bought the Dassult jet in 2008 specifically so that it could fulfil the terms of its lease at Ames.

Under the deal, H211 allows the Dassult jet to be borrowed by Nasa for no charge to conduct scientific research. But the company fuels all its planes for both private and Nasa-related flights with aviation fuel provided by the US Department of Defence (DoD).

Sounds like a sick sweetheart deal. It's worth noting H211 is owned by Brin and Page, so it's more like Brin and Page laundering fuel for Google through their shell company. H211 buys fuel from DoD at special rates, then can refuel whoever they like? Crazy. Someone at DoD needs to roll a head. Then force H211 to reimburse the US government.


Mike H. December 16, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Mules are cheaper, run on organic fuel. and, if they break down, you can eat them. Just being fiscally conservative…


blight_ December 16, 2013 at 2:38 pm

One fuel for another. We will either have to bring hay from the United States (as part of our "buy American" initiative), risk buying local hay and risk it being poisoned, or attempt to have the animals forage, which runs the risk of the Taliban spraying them with PKM fire at night or try to steal them.

Then there's buying body armor for the mules, just like law enforcement does with its dogs. Not sure if the robots will be armored, but I imagine they would need a kevlar blanket with SAPI to keep them safe from shrapnel and small arms fire. Mules will need water too, especially in Afghanistan, just as robots will need fuel to keep on going.

By the time we armor either solution to satisfactory standards, both will be overweight, consume too much "fuel" (in the form of bulky hay, bulky water or gas/avgas/kerosene/batteries)…


Hector Q December 17, 2013 at 12:15 pm

US Army is already mule-equipped:



hibeam December 16, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Google? Are those are the guys who can figure out how to set up a web site in 2013? Maybe Obama should give them a call? Obama seems to be stuck in 1985.


dr. agreeable December 16, 2013 at 5:15 pm



Uncle Bill December 16, 2013 at 5:26 pm

The Google motto "Don't be Evil" has always served as a red flag for me. "Arbeit Macht Frei" and all that.


Chris December 16, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Please, oh please say this isn't so….. What is next, the Gamma Goat?


Hunter76 December 16, 2013 at 7:51 pm

A redesigned Gamma Goat might work.


Matthew Jacobs December 17, 2013 at 1:34 am

How about a one or Two Wheel Game Cart Hunters use for carrying out their days work. Some models can be converted into shelter or a raised platform for sleeping. Their Cheap and you don't need to feed or water them and… Their Quiet


oblatt2 December 17, 2013 at 4:23 am

Boston Dynamics was obviously struggling. Silly concepts that only the marines (the customer of last resort) thought were good are a good way to kill your tech company.

Google no doubt plans to strip out some of the technology and quietly shut down the military part.


rtsy December 17, 2013 at 11:55 am

Boston Dynamics was far from struggling! They're one of the only companies able to create innovative robotic designs that actually work.

Google no doubt plans to slap their logo on the side of big dog and do real drone delivery to your doorstep.


Rob C. December 19, 2013 at 12:36 pm

If a multi-billion dollar company flash cash in your face, your going think really hard and properly agree to it unless your life-long thing. If you have board members & investors, the jig up and your selling wither you like it or not.


pzkwmkv December 17, 2013 at 9:23 am

And Skynet became self-aware on …


AAK December 18, 2013 at 10:52 pm

Yeah but if all it was churning out was Stompy the Robomule we'd be ok.


hibeam December 17, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Get to work on big drone. We need to move beyond the boots on the ground concept. Control the air and you control the ground by default.


Aaron December 20, 2013 at 3:40 am
Rob C. December 19, 2013 at 12:34 pm

This properly the End of the Big Dog for the military unless DARPA takes all the technology/designs and software associated with it. Google don't sound continue to allow it develop it for them. I honestly think this would been nice bot to help the US Soldiers in the field.

I think, like Motorola before them, Boston Dynamics will properly stripped of its tech and kept what nugget of information Googles wants for their plans in Robotics. I've seen first hand of them doing that Motorola.


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