Google acquires LittleDog, BigDog, Cheetah, Sandflea, and other robots

December 14th, 2013

Wildcat, a quadraped robots from Boston Dynamics

Photo: Boston Dynamics

Over the past several years, Google has been purchasing robotics companies faster than Noah filled his ark. And this week, the search engine giant added an array of robotic animals to its holdings with the acquisition of Boston Dynamics.

Founded by MIT alum and former professor Marc Raibert PhD ’77, Boston Dynamics—known for its robots that move and balance like humans and animals—is the eighth robotics firm acquired by Google in the last half year, according to the New York Times. Why is the company that invented Googlebots seeking out so many robots?

“I suspect Google has recognized that a new generation of smarter, safer, industrial robots is rapidly emerging … and it’s realized that these bots could have a huge impact both at work and at home,” says MIT Technology Review’s online editor Will Knight.

Based on Waltham, Mass., Boston Dynamics is known for developing robots that mimic biology. Among the company’s creations are:

  • Cheetah, the world’s fastest robot, with speeds topping 29 miles per hour (see video of Cheetah)
  • Atlas and PETMAN, anthropomorphic robots that mimic human movement,
  • SandFlea, a tiny robot capable of leaping 30 feet in the air to bypass obstacles,
  • And LittleDog, BigDog and Wildcat, quadraped robots that can navigate rough terrains and even icy parking lots.

See videos of Wildcat and Cheetah.

Read “Google adds to its menagerie of robots” at the New York Times.

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