In December 2013, Google snapped up Boston Dynamics. You probably haven’t heard of that company. It makes terrifying robots that look like this:
That thing is called WildCat, and it’s designed to run fast on all kinds of terrain, while looking like something you had nightmares about when you were a kid. WildCat is being developed via DARPA funding. That’s the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Boston Dynamics was one of eight robotics companies that Google recently bought, along with Nest, which makes Internet-connected thermostat controls.
Boston Dynamics also makes this freaky thing, the Atlas. Atlas is also a DARPA project.
We have the beginnings of a droid army here. In the Star Wars universe, droids’ main weakness was their inability to think creatively. Well, other than R2-D2, but you’re not supposed to notice that droid thinking creatively all the time, making hash of the droids-can’t-think issue. The emperor secretly had the clone army built because the droids were just too predictable and lacked tactical awareness. Except R2-D2.
Google apparently doesn’t want to be tripped up by the same problem. Or it wants to build its own walking, running, DoD-funded R2-D2.
Today, Google reportedly added to its curious acquisitions with the purchase of a secretive artificial intelligence company called DeepMind.
Though DeepMind may not be a household name in tech, sources in the artificial intelligence community describe the company as a formidable AI player and say it has been aggressively recruiting in the space. One source said DeepMind has a team of at least 50 people and has secured more than $50 million in funding. This person described DeepMind as “the last large independent company with a strong focus on artificial intelligence,” and said it competed with companies like Google, Facebook and Baidu for talent.
Marry up Atlas and WildCat with DeepMind and the dumb droid problem may go away.