I know this may be horrifying to some, but there are those of us who would rather make a killing machine. We'll settle for a robot that carries supplies for soldiers or watches the enemy.
Defense contractor employees are typically patriotic in a way that would be really alien to the normal tech crowd. Part of the motivation is to do something for the USA. Having Boston Dynamics get diverted to cutesy home stuff is a decades-long setback for the nation.
There is also the matter of legs. Legs are cool.
Household robots are fiddly. They have to deal with a complicated environment. They can't just look at a toddler obstructing the path and go "Fuck it, I'm blowing that away, EAT FLAMING DEATH!!!".
Household robots are cheap plastic, with the shapes and colors totally determined by marketing.
When you buy a company that pretty much makes weapons, what kind of employees do you think you will get? Do you really expect that they will be happy that you have "rescued" them from being forced to make killing machines? Ha, ha, ha.... NO. You took away the coolness. You took away the awesomeness.
Some of the technical staff may have agreed. Mostly though, defense contractors don't end up hiring the kind of people who hate defense contracting.
Prior to the buy-out, if you wanted to make cute little household robots, would you have applied for a job at Boston Dynamics? (FYI, NO!!!)
If BD has any kind of intention of selling to anyone other than the military or researchers like themselves, they'll need a brand, manufacturing and distribution. Might as well bootstrap that now with some less ground breaking tech.
I'm not particularly horrified by military robots, but I suspect they'd have to deal with complications and subtleties in the environment even more effectively than domestic robots in order to be remotely usable.
I think that's the point. Rather than building a kick ass military bot, they'd be building a lame domestic servant. People who thought they'd be doing the former may not find satisfaction in the latter.
I don't think an American company being the first to enter or rather create a whole new market is less of a win than being the first to get some cool new weapon.
Wars are won with money remember.
(And that's without even talking about the tactical benefits of having a whole army of spies in the homes of elites all around the globe)
Then Google bought six robotics companies, including BD, which dropped their existing customer base and went quiet. For several years, the robotics community was wondering what great things Google was developing. In the end, it turns out the answer was "not much".
The amusing thing is that Google/Alphabet worried about their image from owning a company that makes a big humanoid robot. Google survived paying $500,000,000 to DoJ to avoid felony charges after they were caught knowingly selling AdWords to an FBI undercover operation pretending to be a Mexican drug lord trying to take over the US steroids market. It's not like Google has a cuddly image.
If Toyota wants a robotics company, they should probably buy Schaft, which is already in Japan, from Alphabet. There just don't seem to be civilian applications for BD's hydraulic machines. Also, it's about time for Marc Raibert, the BD CEO, to retire; he's about 67 now.
I guess we'll never know what Rubin was thinking when he went on a shopping spree with daddy's credit card; or if he was thinking at all.
Hopefully Toyota will be more accomodating; and maybe somewhere in the 2030 timeframe it will be time to start thinking seriously about commercializing useful bipedal robots. A company with decades of experience mass producing machines with 1000s of separate components I'm sure will be much better equipped to handle that than Alphabet.
- do the washing and ironing
- cook meals
- clean and tidy the house
- take parcel deliveries
- watch the house for intruders
- feed and walk the dog (and tell him off if he does something bad)
- change bulbs, repaint some walls while you are on holidays
Would be like a new revolution similar to washing machines or dish washers, freeing up lots of people (mostly women) time and for instance giving them a better chance to focus on their career. People would be queueing to buy one.
Less sexy but a much bigger market than another Terminator in my opinion.
In a similar line of thinking, I am actually kind of surprised that there are no wired quadrocopter swarms yet, that would form a bucket line of short cables to trade range for the power and infinite endurance of a grid connection. I am quite sure that there must be applications where this deal would be worthwhile.
What a wasteful time to be alive.
- Get hacked
- Kill under order
But in the US it's fine, since the drones have to carry a license number. That will protect us!
It's certainly true that most terrorists are complete dumbasses, but not all of them are. In this case, the scenario includes technology that can carry out asymmetric warfare without placing the bad guy in any personal peril, allowing fanatics other than the suicidal variety to play the game.
I don't think there's much that can (or necessarily should) be done to mitigate the risk, but I'm sure that efforts will be made soon enough.
- AUVSI, in the future
In short, we're wasting our fucking time on HN AGAIN.
I found this via a WSJ article from 2014:
> Mr. Rubin is an entrepreneurial spirit who likes to run his own show and was facing constraints on his activities at Google, a person familiar with the executive and Google said. A Google spokesman declined to comment on why Mr. Rubin left.
> “It’s surprising and sounds pretty unplanned,” said Scott Strawn, an analyst at research firm IDC. “If it was voluntary on Mr. Rubin’s part, you would think he would see part of the robotics project through to completion to have something to show publicly before leaving.”
One might argue that he should have been more aggressive in purchasing other IP portfolios - maybe Nortel (although that may have been before he was at Google) and Sun of course.
But Motorola gave Google exactly what it needed - a mature patent portfolio which other companies would have to cross license.
The Nortel patent portfolio sold for $4.5 billion, which was higher than Google was willing to pay.
Andy Rubin did not like what Samsung was doing with Android and wanted a captive OEM. This doubled Google's headcount, it changed Google's financial numbers materially, it cost a fuckton of money even at Google scale at a time when it was apparent that no phone OEMs were very profitable, and it was strategically incoherent.
Andy Rubin was exactly the right guy to make Android a success. But buying Motorola and intending to keep it as a captive OEM was a large mistake.
This professorial tone is baloney. "A startup of our size"? You decide what kind of giant company you want to be, Google. If you don't want to think 10 years out, why did you buy so many research labs? Own your decisions and figure out what you want.
At best as I can tell Boston Dynamics wanted to just try things, and Google wanted a household robot? Yet it also says that Boston Dynamics was worried about generating revenues in a reasonable timeframe.
I'm not really sure what a BD household robot would even do.
c.f. military use where soldiers lives are very politically costly, and machines can be much more proficient killers.
I suspect that the purchase, maintenance and software licence costs of an extremely complex piece of machinery with incredible AI isn't going to compare that favourably with a minimum wage human anyway, even spread out over a few years.
>McDonald's former CEO Ed Rensi: "It’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who’s inefficient making $15 an hour bagging french fries."
As a householder, I don't need someone to bag chips for me 24/7. Having someone spend an hour cleaning my flat once a week would be quite useful. Unfortunately, the robot arm doesn't have enough moving parts or AI to do that, and even if it could, I could hire someone on a $15 minimum wage to do that on a weekly basis for 44 years for the same price as the robotic arm.
And if the hardware costs mean it's not a mass market product, the software licences aren't going to be cheap either.
Roomba etc can be cheap because the forces are small and required accuracy is low. An arm that can e.g. load a dishwasher or plug itself into an electrical socket is another beast. Consider that to lift 1kg payload the arm also has to lift itself, and arms typically weigh several kilograms.
Mass producing robots will help costs, but they will still be expensive like a car, not like a TV.
Now the reality is that it's probably not going to be one or the other, both will advance in parallel and share technologies.
Most technologies are funded and developed in research stage for military applications, internet being one example. your example was (and i assume you mean far future) a super hard problem. terminator was a fully intelligent super being.
i am talking about the development of the class that boston dynamics is/has built. they can run around in open environments and could do recon, supply and very basic defensive or offensive maneuvering.
i think (and could be wrong) the granular dexterity to fold a shirt is super hard. also, training would be non trivial.
i think robots and augmentation will be mil -> commercial -> consumet. and this is happening. soon all 3 will evolve in parallel and converge on apecific applications
Start with basic tasks - carry grocery bags in from the car, walk the dog, carry heavy things from room to room. Vacuuming, mowing the lawn, etc could be next, then picking up clothes and toys from the floor. Maybe even chasing the kids through the woods, so you can keep an eye on them?
We won't be seeing much of the latter any time soon. Even Star Wars assumes that the "roomba" type would be far more useful than his golden friend.
Regardless, seems like the sort of thing that should get a mention at least.
The bigger topic (probably not a revelation?) is how loosely integrated the robotic purchases have been, and will this continue?
I wonder how much more tightly those teams will ultimately be integrated. Acquisitions should ultimately be integrated and used to form the best teams for internal projects, you don't get the benefit of scale if they operate like an island...
Sounds more like, 'Google Takes Hands-Off Approach Before Hand-Off'.
I can see how dropping that might stick in their craw.
But aside from that is there any reason that wheels are more appropriate than legs for a household servant robot?
Evolution seems to tell us certain things about legs. I assume they have reasons for clinging to this approach. But it creates an obvious perception problem because, man, those videos are weird.
Google's got rainbows popping out of their logo meanwhile these guys are punting pets. A culture clash surprises whom exactly?
Both your comment to the GP and your comment here make uncharitable assumptions that convert immediately into anger. Please don't do that when posting to HN. It corrodes the civil discourse that we're trying for.
The fact that there are still people that don't understand discrimination in this day and age is infuriating. If you think your interview candidate is potentially senile then you should screen for senility and not lump people based on statistical averages for whatever pigeon holes your constructed for them. People need a chance to surpass whatever stereotypes you hold even if they're based on statistically facts.
Not only is it down right illegal, it what perpetuates discrimination and causes so many of our social problems
PS: I'm sorry this is off topic, but this is a very important issue - and simplistic narrow minded thinking like this needs to be pointed out for the common good
The cost of screening 70 year old stripper candidates depends on how many such candidates their are to begin with. I doubt there are many, because the candidates select themselves out.
I was just trying to say that I believe that the absolute number of such applicants is so small, that it's a moot point. I could be wrong though...
Even an utterly unfit for purpose metric like "how fast can you type?" would be a better filter than just age for a software engineer job?
Can you show any links to reliable research ahowing cognitive decline is inevitable in 70 year olds? Or is that just something you know and think is obvious?
When does age-related cognitive decline begins http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0197458009...
White matter damage on diffusion tensor imaging correlates with age-related cognitive decline http://m.neurology.org/content/66/2/217.short
Evidence for cortical “disconnection” as a mechanism of age-related cognitive decline http://m.neurology.org/content/57/4/632.1.short
I can't believe I'm being down voted for this. Is like when someone says males have naturally more upper body strength and then some feminists get mad, even when is written in a biology study about musculature.
This obsession for political correctness is corrupting scientific knowledge and research.
That 25 year old will expend many neurons and lots of that fresh cognitive capability on waste due to inexperience. Have you ever met a practicing 70-year old engineer? That perspective and experience has an outsized impact.
The male vs female upper body strength thing is totally different. For one, it's measurable. Second, it's not a job attribute that is offset by expertise -- a firefighter has to be able to carry an average sized person or a roll of hose. 30 years of hose carrying doesn't make it lighter. Usually, fire departments recognize this by allowing fire fighters to retire starting at the 20 year mark.
Brain plasticity is a real thing, and it goes away really quickly, is depressing but is a reality, I'm 27 but I already feel my reflexes are a bit worse than when I was 24, here is a nice video that gives some perspective about the issue, you may have seen it before (reverse bicycle): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFzDaBzBlL0
Diversity requires you change how you think about talent and work. Change from 80lb containers to 30lb containers and then you can hire people with less upper body strength while reducing injuries.
Yeah, we should be good with each other and nice with each other, but sometimes that is not in line with how the market/capitalism works. I don't think I was completely right but I don't think neither are you.
Moves like this signal to me that Google is dying. I, for one, will shed no tears when it finally kicks the bucket.
This was not the claim, you added "inevitable", thereby diverging from a statistical claim to an absolute strawman.
See? I can play this game too.