What Would Google Do … with robots

So the world or a tiny subset of the world that has the time to be interested in things about robots, had multiple double takes when Google bought Boston Dynamics, the military robot maker. It turns out that Google has been very busy buying robotics companies, not just Boston Dynamics.

Google has always been about using algorithms to replace humans or at least automating tasks. via Forbes:

A little more specifically, the New York Times has noted, Page has “argued that technology should be deployed wherever possible to free humans from drudgery and repetitive tasks.”

What work do humans in Google do right now? What cerebral and physical tasks can be replaced?

Book Scanning
All these books published and printed and not a single digital copy. Libraries of books that could be scanned in and shared with humanity. Of what Google scans in, they need operators of scanning machines since books are not uniform in size and texture. You can spot hands in some of the scans like this blog talks about.


A standard machine could never do this but a robot could. And Google book scanners are not classed as real Google employees it seems. Just waiting for robot replacements.

Data Centre Work
While Google data centres are mostly about servers and don’t need humans, they still need humans and humans need to be catered for in data centres. Google data centres run hot, higher temperatures mean less money and energy spent on cooling. Google data centres are efficient enough and they have staff in shorts and t-shirts in there because they run warm. Humans are probably a bottle-neck in custom made data centres.

Aisles are made for humans to fit in so they can swap out failing equipment. Bottle neck. Google spent $1.9 billion buying the old New York Port Authority which just happens to be a location for the best fibre connections in America. Kevin Slavin in his TED talk about algorithms talked about Skyscrapers in New York being gutted to house data centres. Imagine how inefficient one of these would be because of the shape and because of catering for humans. If Google made skyscraper data centres like Japanese automated car parks though:

Fires need oxygen to keep going, as do humans. Eliminating oxygen in data centres is a good way to stop fires spreading but you can’t have humans then. Robots are cool though, right? One wonders can you have oxygen free data centres?

Mapping and live traffic reports
Obvious section this. Mapping seems obvious since Google already has cars and trikes going around the place (and even people with backpacks). Google already does driverless cars. So drones. And low and behold the FAA now are allowing trials of pilotless drones. No more traffic helicopters thanks to Google traffic drones. Helicopter pilots are very expensive and not that common, many are ex-military because you need so many thousands of flying hours to fly commercial.

Google Infrastructure
Google needs data centres all around the world. As developing countries boot up and become more web connected, more data centres will need to be deployed. Remember the idea of Google dropping shipping containers that were data centres to spots that needed them?

As the wildest and most far flung parts of the world become flattened and connected, they’ll need data centres. They’ll also need infrastructure for those data centres. Why not use drones, driverless vehicles and robots to build them out and to connect them? On that, reliability is important too so having drones guard your electricity supply and repair it is also important. Humans do this today:

Or this:

Don’t forget underwater cable repair too!

Hardware Manufacturing
Remember that Google is now a hardware company as well. They own Motorola and all the hardware parts of that. They seem to be making a loss year after year with it but making the hardware section more efficient with robots could be something good. If they were to take their expertise at making processes more efficient then their hardware factories and partner factories could in theory pump out high quality smartphones like the Moto X and newer versions of Google Glass that don’t cost over €1500 a pair.

RobotDroid – What if
Despite working on mobile possibly longer than Apple, Google were way behind with their mobile initiative and are still playing catch up with Apple on this. The idea of making an operating system open source (to a degree) and free to use has made Android the number one Internet operating system out there and more Android phones than Apple phones are being sold. Apple phones still seem to be used more and for higher value purposes.

So maybe this time when robots and drones will eventually become mainstream, Google wants to be out the gap first and have the momentum and be the main platform for building robots on? All those robots and drones with sensors that feed into Google services. All that information. Apple are always good at coming into a market late and taking the higher end of said market and then going lower into it but Apple may not be the dominant force in the robot world, they’re still a consumer company. Probably going to be a while before consumers use robots.

This is a Google robot:

Maybe too far
Airdrops of 3d printers for what, I don’t know. News robots in war zones. instructional robots. Google Robot Dog Tracks. Remember too that Google has often given away IP and knowledge if it makes the world more efficient which helps Google be more efficient. They bought Urchin, turned it into Google Analytics and gave it away for free. So there could be something in that too.

Lastly, Robots are just fucking cool, Google can afford to play with expensive but fun things.

2 Responses to “What Would Google Do … with robots”

  1. Google = Skynet

    We’re in big trouble. Robots are fucking mad cool but semantic web + robots = self aware search engine that will terminate us if we don’t click on the ad. We have been warned.

  2. Paul says:

    book scanning : There are a few cool projects at Google for book scanning
    like the Linear Book Scanner which is a cheap scanner

    This new yorker article from last month is work checking out too http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2013/12/the-art-of-google-book-scan.html