"The amount of money that Google and other commercial companies will pour into robotics and artificial intelligence could at last take it truly into the commercial world where we actually do have smart robots roaming our streets," says Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield.
Turning the classic industrial investment model on its head, consumer technology groups are using their cash mountains to superfund areas of research that were until now the preserve of governments, defence companies and academics. Over the past year, Google has bought seven robotics companies, including Boston Dynamics, whose previous work building humanoid machines was largely paid for by the US military. It has bought firms that specialise in natural language processing, gesture recognition, and more recently in machine learning, highlighted by the acquisition of British startup Deepmind – bought in January for $400m (£238m).
"Silicon Valley's involvement is creating right now an enormous acceleration," says Per Roman, a founding partner at technology investment bank GPBullhound. "It is turning into a real talent magnet. It is often small teams that come up with breakthrough inventions and you are much more willing to take the risk if there is a chance you could get bought rather than ending up in a dark room in some military agency."
And it is not just AI that is persuading Google to open its chequebook. Like Facebook, it is also investing in beaming the internet from the sky. Google has acquired drone maker Titan Aerospace, while Facebook now owns Somerset based Ascenta. Facebook has also splashed out $2bn on Oculus, a maker of virtual reality headsets. Amazon, meanwhile, has held up the prospect that one day its goods could be delivered by air to our doorstep before we have even realised we need to order them.
Last year's $3.2bn purchase of Nest, a designer of internet connected smoke alarms and thermostats, suggest Google's ambitions are domestic. "It looks to me like they want to take the internet out of the desktop and put it into our everyday lives," says Sharkey. "Their acquisition of Nest was very telling. Add to that robotics and AI companies and you have the internet walking around in the world alongside us."
For those struggling to understand why Google or Amazon should want to invest in self driving cars, internet drones and robotics, the answer is data. Masses of it. The parking meter in your street, the collar on your cat, the thermostat in your home will emit signals that can be picked up from anywhere, and Google will be listening.
Full story in The Guardian.
TOKYO -- President Obama played soccer Thursday with a Japanese robot. Obama's visit to the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, or Mirikan, aimed to highlight both Japan's technological prowess and the renewal of a 10-year scientific collaboration agreement between the two countries. While the event had plenty of examples of how the two countries are working together -- including a pre-recorded message from the International Space Station's Japanese commander and two American flight engineers serving alongside him -- the real stars of the show were a couple of robots.
Honda's humanoid robot ASIMO, which was dressed in an astronaut suit and is about the height of a 10 year-old child, went through a series of exercises for the president (video).
"It's nice to meet you," it said in a metallic voice, before approaching a soccer ball and telling Obama, "I can kick a soccer ball too."
"Okay, come on," the president replied.
The robot then took a couple of steps back and then then ran up to the ball to deliver a hefty punt.
The president trapped the ball with his foot, later telling an audience of roughly 30 students he was slightly intimidated by ASIMO and the other robot he observed at the museum.
"I have to say that the robots were a little scary, they were too lifelike," Obama declared. "They were amazing."
Full story in The Washington Post.
It’s the fourth year in a row that U.S. FIRST — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology — has held its top competition here, drawing competitors from 38 countries.
The matches will be timed and intense. The crowds thick. The stands loud.Through it, thousands of students will demonstrate their knowledge of programming, and electrical and mechanical engineering.
For self-proclaimed geeks, it’s a little like March Madness.
“It’s an awesome experience,” said Alex Roberds, a senior at Eureka High School and member of Oddly Charged Particles, an independent team bound for the Dome. “We’re just excited to have this one last shot. You’re always playing with the best teams, and it’s great to meet people from all over the world.”
The team is among thousands across the country that compete in FIRST robotics. Students must design, program and build remote-controlled robots from a kit of metal rods, gears, cogs and other widgets including motors and computer chips. Teams have six weeks to build their robots using those parts, plus whatever else they choose to buy within their budget.
This year, larger robots on fields half the size of basketball courts will battle it out by maneuvering exercise balls into goal areas. Smaller robots will compete by putting as many blocks as possible into plastic crates on top of pendulums.
Full story in stltoday.com.