2013 saw emergence of potential giant CA defense contractor

2013 saw emergence of potential giant CA defense contractor

googleworldMost of the reports last month that Mountain View-based Google bought Boston Dynamics — its eighth recent purchase of a robotics firm — focused on how this fit in with so many “moon shot” Google initiatives. Some stories looked forward to the arrival of Google personal assistant robots that pair up with features of the Google Android smartphone operating system that are meant to make your phone a de facto cyber personal assistant. Apple-philes may be in shock to hear this, but OK Google has left Siri far behind in what it can do.

Yet the analyses in some corners focused on the fact that these moves position Google as the next in the great tradition of huge California defense contractors — even if the company says it has no interest in becoming a big defense contractor. DARPA money helped many of the robotics firms that Google purchased. And the Pentagon’s vast interest in robotics could be a huge profit center for Google.

This story is from last week’s Christian Science Monitor:

“In the future, the ideal robots will be able to take on ‘the ‘four D’s’ – jobs that are dirty, dangerous, dull, and difficult’ for the US military, says Michael Toscano, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International in Arlington, Va. …

“The US Army and Marine Corps have for years used robots to dismantle roadside bombs in America’s wars, and the DOD is developing pack robots like BigDog – designed by Boston Dynamics, a firm recently purchased by Google – to haul soldiers’ gear in the steep and rocky mountains of Afghanistan.

“The Pentagon’s unmanned systems road map signals that the Pentagon will continue to deepen its forays into robotics and artificial intelligence for use on land, in the air, and at sea. …

“The ultimate goal is to increase the persistence, protection, and endurance of military robots, which will in turn decrease physical and cognitive workloads on our warfighters, while increasing their combat capabilities, the Pentagon report notes. ‘The end state is an affordable, modernized force as a manned-unmanned team with improved movement and maneuver, protection, intelligence, and sustainment.’”

So Google buys all these companies geared to give the military what it wants in coming decades, but says that’s not what it intends to do.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

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