Last month Amazon announced an ambitious plan to deliver packages via drone just 30 minutes after an order is placed. Amazon Prime Air is a great example of how tech companies are moving in on largely untapped and still very labor-intensive areas like warehousing and delivery.
Google seems to be following suit. Andy Rubin—the brains behind the Android operating system—is to head up a new robotics division with offices in California and Japan.
The new robots won’t be aimed at the consumer market, but rather manufacturing, assembly, and warehousing, with a focus on electronics and retail, according to a recent The New York Times article.
In the retail arena it’s not difficult to see how Google might compete with Amazon. In fact, Google is already experimenting with package delivery for Target and American Eagle Outfitters in the San Francisco area.
But opportunities for automation go beyond delivery, deep into supply chains, distribution centers, and onto the factory floor – all places where a manual labor force still dominates.
According The New York Times article, Google has acquired seven technology companies over the past several months to prepare for its foray into robotics and automation.
Among the companies are Schaft, a small team of Japanese roboticists who recently left Tokyo University to develop a humanoid robot, and Industrial Perception, a start-up that has developed computer vision systems and robot arms for loading and unloading trucks.
Also acquired were Meka, a San Francisco-based maker of humanoid robots and robot arms, and Bot & Dolly, a maker of robotic camera systems that were recently used to create special effects in the movie “Gravity.”
In addition to his acquisitions, Google’s Rubin has begun hiring roboticists and is bringing in other Google programmers to assist in the project, The New York Times reports.