Home / Tech / Google is revitalizing its robotics division, according to report, but this time it will focus on AI-software instead of human-like mobility (GOOG, GOOGL)

Google is revitalizing its robotics division, according to report, but this time it will focus on AI-software instead of human-like mobility (GOOG, GOOGL)

Boston Dynamics

  • Google is getting back into robotics after giving up on earlier, high-profile attempts, according to a report in the New York Times.
  • Today, Google’s new effort — known as Robotics at Google — is led by Vincent Vanhoucke, who served as a key player in the company’s artificial intelligence project, Google Brain. 
  • Perhaps a result of Vanhoucke background in AI, Robitics at Google will focus more on advanced software that can train a robot to learn new tasks, instead of expensive devices that can move more fluidly and human-like.
  • Last September, Business Insider reported that a reboot of Google’s robotics program was likely, given the dozens of open job listings for robotics experts on its website. 

Google is delving back into robotics after previous attempts — which were led by an executive accused of sexual misconduct — fell by the wayside, The New York Times reported on Tuesday. 

Google’s new effort — known as Robotics at Google — is led by Vincent Vanhoucke, who served as a key player in the company’s artificial intelligence project, Google Brain, the Times reported. No figures regarding the size of the robotics team were given in the report. 

The Times report follows Business Insider’s report in September that a reboot of Google’s robotics program was in the works, as the company made a big hiring push with dozens of open job listings for robotics experts.

Perhaps a result of Vanhoucke background in AI, Robitics at Google will focus on advanced software that can train a robot to learn new tasks, instead of expensive devices that can move more fluidly and human-like. In fact, the Times reported that Google is leveraging third-party hardware to couple with its software, rather than building the robots itself. 

Read more: Google stumbled in robotics — but evidence is mounting that it’s getting ready for a big comeback, and it could take on Amazon

Though Google did not discuss the real-world ambitions, its push towards machine learning capabilities within robots, the Times reported, could be Google’s attempt to automate workplace tasks, similar to how Amazon has rolled out robotics in its distribution centers today. 

Google did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on its new program. 

Google’s early robotics efforts began in 2013 with the purchasing of six robotics startups, in a project overseen by Andy Rubin — the Android creator who reportedly received a $90 million exit package from Google while he was a subject of sexual misconduct claims.

Though the machines themselves were flashy and capable of impressive physical motions (among them were Boston Dynamic’s dog and human-like robots, now infamous across YouTube) little materialized from the initiative for Google. The companies Rubin acquired to jumpstart Google’s robotics program were eventually shut down or sold off. 

Got a tip? Contact this reporter via Signal or WhatsApp at +1 (209) 730-3387 using a non-work phone, email at nbastone@businessinsider.com, Telegram at nickbastone, or Twitter DM at @nickbastone.

SEE ALSO: Google has told dozens of employees in its laptop and tablet division to find new jobs at the company, raising questions about its hardware plans

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