A few days ago, word got out that Google was building a robotics division. Now, it's already making huge waves in the industry: the New York Times reports that Google has acquired Boston Dynamics, one of the most advanced robotics companies to date. The company will join the new Robotics Division, headed by former Android chief Andy Rubin.
Boston Dynamics has typically done work for DARPA and the Pentagon. The company is mostly known for their noisey, 4-legged robots, with names like BigDog and AlphaDog. The robots can traverse difficult terrain like snow, muddy mountainside, and ice, and they can even stay upright after a surprise kick from a human. BigDog can carry up to 340 lbs and was originally developed for DARPA as a military pack mule. They've since affixed an arm to BigDog which can throw a cinder block up to 17 ft. The company has also worked on faster 4 legged robots, like the Cheetah, which can hit 28.3 mph—a little faster than the fastest human.
Boston Dynamics has also worked on humanoid robots. Their coolest humanoid is probably Petman, a robot designed to test clothing for the military. While testing clothing may not seem particularly exciting, Petman is interesting because of its walking motion. While many robots, like ASIMO tend to have a timid, awkward walking motion, Petman walks with style, yet still manages to be stable even when pushed. Atlas is particularly impressive: a 2 legged bot that can cross uneven, rocky terrain.
It's unknown how much Google paid for the company, or even what its new robotics division will be building. An earlier report mentioned that Google might start with some kind of warehouse robot, but for now the company is pretty quiet about its plans. If this is the first you've heard of Boston Dynamics, it has a very popular YouTube page. It's a great way to see what the company has been working on.