Even though the Internet search giant owns two companies that have contracts with the Pentagon, Google is choosing to forego military funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in at least one robotic competition.
Google bought the robotics firm Schaft that had developed a bipedal robot that won DARPA’s Robotics Challenge. The competition asked companies to develop a robot that could perform disaster response tasks to include navigating debris, climbing ladders and turning off a valve.
Schaft earned the highest score in DARPA’s competition. Google and Schaft are not bailing from the program all together, but the company is moving to the “self-funded Track D of the program,” DARPA officials announced last week.
Google earned $37 billion in 2013 and it appears the company would prefer to distance itself from the military in its initiative to develop next generation robots. Enough questions are already being asked about Google and other companies’ cooperation with NSA and U.S. intelligence agencies.
Along with Schaft, Google also bought Boston Dynamics, a company that DARPA has come to depend on to develop multiple pieces of equipment.
Boston Dynamics has developed such projects as the Big Dog, which is a four-legged drone being built to carry supplies for combat troops over rough terrain. The research lab has also developed the Sand Flea, an 11-pound robot that can leap onto roofs and over walls while carrying sensors.
Robotics already play a crucial role for the military. If Google keeps cherry picking the military’s top research arms, it’s a wonder if that could help or hurt the level of technology to reach the military.
On one hand, Google is a company obviously more qualified to lead innovative development versus the military. However, if Google isn’t willing to work with the military, it’s a wonder if those technological leaps will benefit troops.