Image Courtesy: The Verge
Alphabet, Google’s parent firm, has announced the launch of a new business called Intrinsic, which will specialise on developing software for industrial robots. The subsidiary will be one of Alphabet’s “other bets,” or businesses that are somewhat risky and focused on new technology, such as Waymo (self-driving vehicles), Wing (delivery drones), and Verily (healthcare and biotech).
It is unknown what Intrinsic is developing or who its clients will be. Intrinsic’s new CEO, Wendy Tan White, discusses the company’s goals in broad terms, claiming that it will “unlock the creative and economic potential of industrial robotics for millions more businesses, entrepreneurs, and developers” by developing software that will make industrial robots “easier to use, less expensive, and more flexible.”
For years, Google has been obsessed with robotics, but the company’s initiatives have been scattered and have failed to yield any commercial blockbusters. Google embarked on a robot purchase binge in 2013, purchasing seven businesses in about six months, including Schaft (a Japanese firm known for bipedal bots), Bot & Dolly (creators of extremely amazing viral films), and Boston Dynamics (which needs no introduction). The project was dubbed “Replicant,” and it was led by Andy Rubin, a co-founder of the Android mobile operating system.
Over the years, however, there has been little news from Replicant, and Google has either sold or shut down most of its purchases. Why? Partly because robots are difficult to manufacture and not particularly lucrative. But it’s partly because Rubin left the firm in 2014 after being accused of sexual misconduct (which Google kept secret).
Since Replicant’s demise, the firm has shifted its attention to software, employing machine learning to educate robots to operate items without direct supervision. This plays to Google’s capabilities and appears to be Intrinsic’s future focus.