Sunday, December 15, 2013

Are Amazon and Google trying to make the robot apocalypse happen?

Internet giants Amazon and Google have taken a serious interest in robotics lately.
Amazon is developing a fleet of flying delivery robots called Amazon Prime Air. It also is increasing its use of robots in its warehouses, using technology it acquired from Kiva Systems.
Meanwhile, Google is working on self-driving cars. Plus, on Friday, Google revealed that it purchased Boston Dynamics, maker of robots that resemble mechanical pack mules and Terminators.
Boston Dynamics made Atlas, a 6-foot 2-inch tall, 330-pound monster that walks on two legs and is the stuff of nightmares. It was designed with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to help respond to disasters, such as the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown in Japan in 2011. But it looks like the killer robots from the Terminator movies.
Atlas and a bunch of similar robots will be competing in a DARPA competition this week in Homestead, Fla.
The New York Times reports that Google has purchased eight robotics companies in the last half year. Google isn’t saying exactly what it has in mind with the technology.
Advancements in robotics have some people wringing their hands about safety and security.
Robots also are making it more cost effective to do manufacturing in the U.S. again. For instance, Apple’s new factory in Texas to make the Mac Pro computer is highly automated.
Quite a few articles were written this year about the potential for job losses related to increased use of robots. (See articles by the Huffington Post, Associated Press, New York Times and Mindflash.)
Welcome to the future.

Related reading: 

Meet the real life Terminator: Most advanced robot ever is able to walk through battlefields as bullets fly and even nuclear disaster zones to rescue the injured. (The Daily Mail; July 12, 2013)

Amazon unveils futuristic plan: Delivery by drone. (CBS; Dec. 2, 2013)

Amazon Tests 30-Minute Delivery Via Helicopter Drones. (IBD; Dec. 2, 2013)

Before Amazon’s Drones Come the Robots. (Wall Street Journal; Dec. 8, 2013)

Google Puts Money on Robots, Using the Man Behind Android. (New York Times; Dec. 4, 2013)

Photos: Atlas robot from Boston Dynamics; Amazon Prime Air drone. 

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