Google scrap plans for rescue robot
Google is a brand that seems to be involved in all forms of business, from health to autonomous vehicles. Its parent company, Alphabet, established through a company restructuring in October of 2015 has been the driving force for most of Google’s investments, as the multinational conglomerate looks to gain a footing in the next major industry.
Through its many endeavours, Alphabet has faced serious criticism for some of its choices, with its own staff publicly criticising the company’s involvement in military applications. Back in May, a spokeswoman for Google outlined how its artificial intelligence tech was being used to analyse drone footage following a leaked report. The brand then notified its workers, who knew nothing about their direct collaboration with the Pentagon, of this secret project via internal emails. Staff at Google were quoted as saying they felt "outraged" by the news.
In the past Google has made a concerted effort to distance itself from any military applications. Having built a robot for use in a Pentagon-organised competition the brand then decided to pull out for fear of illicit use. Google’s former chairman Eric Schmidt also made the switch to the Pentagon in an advisory position back in 2016, attracting further links to other possible collaborations.
All of which brings us to the matter of Alphabets development of bipedal robots, which have been created to help assist rescue workers in hazardous situations. Having purchased two start-ups in 2013 - Schaft and Boston Dynamics - the brand has made major steps over the last five years despite the constant accusations of developing robots for military applications.
In 2013, one of Schaft's machines won the first round of a rescue robot competition hosted by the Pentagon's research unit Darpa. Again, this link to the Pentagon has made many uneasy, and given the negative press this department has created for Google the decision was made in 2017 to sell Boston Dynamics.
Japanese’s company Softbank Group completed the acquisition towards the end of 2017 and had initially planned to purchase Schaft too. That deal has now fallen through, with a spokeswoman stating: "Following Softbank's decision not to move forward with the Schaft acquisition, we explored many options but ultimately decided to wind down Schaft."
With Boston Dynamics regularly releasing videos of its robots capabilities, it will be interesting to see what their first commercial application could now be.