Google acquires military robot-maker Boston Dynamics

Google seems pretty keen on robots as of late. The bigger question remain: Why?

The company has announced that it has officially acquired Boston Dynamics. The name might not ring a bell to you, but we're certain that you've likely seen the fruits of their robotic labours at some point in your YouTube browsing.

If the name "BigDog," "Cheetah," "WildCat," or "Atlas" don't sound familiar, then perhaps a description might help: They're some of the super-agile, can-traverse-any-terrain, run-like-heck robot creations that typically feature four legs and an absurd amount of engineering prowess.

And now, they're Google's.

Speculation as to what Google might do with its new, four-legged friends — or, at least, the research behind them — is covering a lot of territory. The New York Times, first on the scene with the news about the acquisition, writes that Google's likely to use the technology to "build a new class of autonomous systems." As for whether the robots will fetch your parcel or take care of your elderly grandmother (two examples the Times cited), it remains to be seen.

Otherwise, we really have no idea just what Google might have in store, or how this robotics-themed acquisition could fit into Google's existing product lineup. What we do know, however, is that Google's been ramping up. This acquisition – for an undisclosed price, we note – is Google's eighth in the last half-year or so. And it's clear that the moves are part of a new robotics initiative at Google, led by former Android founder Andy Rubin.

"The future is looking awesome," Rubin tweeted Friday, including a link to the Times' article about Google's acquisition.

Whatever Rubin has in store, he's recently described his efforts as a "moonshot." That said, he also wants to get Google robots – or Google-created robotic technology of some sort — into the market within a reasonable time frame. He doesn't want product development to lag for years; rather, he said he believes that he'll be able to deliver Google 'bots at some point over the next few years.

Interestingly, Boston Dynamics currently enjoys a $10.8 million (£6.6 million) contract with the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — to name one ongoing government contract. Google representatives said that the company intends to honour Boston Dynamics' existing contracts, though GGoogle doesn't "plan to move toward becoming a military contractor on its own," the Times reports.