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Robotics could be the next frontier for Android


Google is exploring robotics as yet another one of its ambitious "moonshot" projects. Driverless cars and AR contact lenses are just the start!

Google is exploring robotics as yet another one of its ambitious “moonshot” projects. Pictured above is a bot from Boston Dynamics, which Google acquired late in 2013. Driverless cars and AR contact lenses are just the start!

“Robots will become omnipresent in our lives in a good way,” said Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt at the Oasis: The Montgomery Summit in Sta. Monica, CA. Discussing robotics and artificial intelligence, Schmidt said that automation will “replace a lot of the repetitive behavior in our lives.” He added that this is by virtue of machines starting to gain inroads in artificial intelligence.

Here’s where Google has been focusing its so-called “moonshot” efforts lately, which include projects involving driverless cars and augmented reality glasses and contact lenses. More recently, Google has also acquired several robotics-oriented firms like Boston Dynamics, as well as connected-device makers like Nest. “Technology is evolving from asking a question to making a relevant recommendation. It will figure out things you care about and make recommendations. That’s possible with today’s technology,” said Schmidt.

While primarily a search and advertising company, Google is, of course, known for Android, which is the dominant mobile platform today. The company is venturing out into projects that involve automation and the Internet of Things. This could mean that the Android we know today might soon turn into a platform that runs on things or automated devices that do all sorts of real-world tasks.

Even the platform’s namesake, Android, itself, is derived from robotics. Given its influence in the mobile industry, it’s only reasonable for Google to venture into such technologies for the physical realm, too.

“Android OS and smartphones were about staying close to the consumer and capturing/leveraging data first hand,” said Forrester Research’s Anthony Mullen to Tech Republic. “The robotics play is the same—control and influence in the last mile where data is gleaned from the physical world and activities are informed by intelligence in the cloud.”

Robotics have mainly been confined to structured environments in the past, however. These include assembly lines, tightly-controlled military exercises and highly-specialized tasks that usually involve only one output. In the future, though, robotics efforts might be geared toward more real-world applications. Take Google’s driverless cars, for example — Google has started doing tests since 2012. With improved logic and artificial intelligence, it’s only a matter of time until such vehicles to be a mainstay on public roads worldwide.

While it’s not likely that Android will necessarily run robots in the future, the technologies being developed are most probably going to make an appearance in artificial intelligence — these include big data, location tracking, context awareness, speech recognition, and more. We may still be a long way from humanoid robots and mechanical pets. But things like driverless cars, houses that keep track of our whereabouts to adjust temperature, and kitchen appliances that call for delivery once supplies are low are within closer reach.

Smartphones and tablets are already omnipresent in our lives today, whereas these were just a novelty a decade back. Will this be the same trend for robotics in the foreseeable future?

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