In 2014, Google bought a number of advanced robotic and artificial intelligence companies to drive its innovation efforts. According to Fast Company, Google's autonomous cars have travelled over 500,000 miles, with barely an incident to speak of. Although the car struggles in heavy snow and rain, the initiative has been a huge success and the cars are seen as a way of transforming the lives of disabled and elderly people who might struggle to drive. Additionally, the Google car could signal the end for car parks, garages and gas stations.
Google invested in eight robotics companies in 2014, including, Schaft Inc, Boston Dynamics and Redwood Robotics. The functions of these robots vary widely, some are used as disaster relief, some can run at speeds of up to 30MPH, whilst others can nimbly climb up and down ladders. One thing that they all have in common however is that they are becoming increasingly data driven, something that's central to Google's business. With this in mind, it's almost logical that Google would invest in robotics to guarantee that it remains as innovative as possible.
At the moment it's hard to envisage a world where robots are readily available on the consumer market - but the acceleration of change in technology and the public's acceptance of it has meant that it's feasible to expect that something as alien as robotics could be widely available on the consumer market in not too distant future. If that is the case, then Google could be stockpiling all the expertise it needs to successfully launch a robot that's ready for our homes. Currently, robotics is used in structured environments like factories, where the robots are protected from changing environments that they can't deal with. Robots struggle to adapt to new environments and lack the ability to improvise when faced with new situations.
Google's new 'robot brigade' is without doubt one if its 'moonshots', just like the Google Glass and augmented reality projects are. By investing in robotics they are using breakthrough technologies that have the capacity to be highly influential going forward. Google's driverless car has been a great success, but there are still certain issues that hold it back - with reflections in puddles and litter getting in the way of its sensors just two examples of this, and whilst these issues persist, there will always be questions regarding robotics ability to interact with humans in a safe and reliable fashion.