Apple Inc, Google Look to Robots for the Future
Apple Inc. and Google have invested heavily in robots over the past year, giving the impression that the tech giants see robotic technology as the way of the future.
Apple Inc. has been reported to be investing a significant portion of its $10.5 billion in capital expenditures for 2014 into a variety of robots. This response is likely as a result of a leveling off in sales of their devices as other companies like Samsung infringe upon their territory in the world of electronics innovation.
It is anticipated that some of Apple Inc.’s robots will be assembly robots, assisting in the production of iPads, iPhones MacBooks and whatever the next big thing from Apple Inc. may be. The robots would likely be used for laser cutting, polishing and testing out new gear. Apple Inc. has announced that it intends to try to return a good deal of its manufacturing now happening in Asia to the United States and the use of robots could be a key part of the plan to make that happen.
Following Apple Inc.’s recent acquisition of Primesense, the company that assisted in development of the 3-D sensors for the Xbox 360, there has also been speculation that Apple Inc. might use that technology to develop new uses for artificial intelligence.
Not to be outdone, Google spent a good deal of the past year taking over eight separate robotics companies leading to much speculation about just what they intend to do with their virtual army of artificial intelligence. Google already uses robotic technology to assist in its search engine functions and in its much talked about self-driving car as well.
Google has formed a new robotics division currently led by one of the creators of Android software, Andy Rubin, who also did a stint with Apple Inc. in the past. Google has been extremely quiet about its robotic intentions, leading to an array of speculation.
Some believe that Google may intend to create manufacturing and assembly robots similar to those planned by Apple Inc., in order to serve its subsidiary company, Motorola, and its future needs. It has also been suggested that Google may be working toward robots that will serve delivery functions similar to the planned Amazon Prime Air drones that made a splash when announced earlier this year. Google is already dipping its toes into the waters of delivery by testing its Google Shopping service in a few markets around the country. The service currently provides home deliveries from a number of well-known retailers, but could be made all the more lucrative and efficient with the help of robots.
Google has already had some success in its robotic engineering efforts. Its newly acquired robots recently dominated the competition at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge Trials, referred to in some circles as “the Olympics for robots.” The competition pits 16 human-like robots against each other to compete in a variety of physical tasks communicated to them through their operators. The Google-owned robots will advance, along with seven other robot teams, to the final round of competition to be held next year.
Whatever the intentions, with companies like Apple Inc. and Google starting to invest so heavily in robots, there is little doubt that they will be an important part of the future for tech companies.
By Michele Wessel