Google may go from Google Glass to Google Robot

Search giant risks losing focus on core search business as it moves into another new market

Google, the worldwide leader in online search, is also the company behind the dominant Android mobile platform, Google Glass wearable technology and the Google Maps app. Are Google Robots the next move?

That's right. Google today confirmed to Computerworld that it's been buying up robotics companies for the past six months as part of an effort to develop its own robotics technology.

As first reported today in the New York Times, Google is developing robotic technology for use by its manufacturing operation, which conducts electronics assembly among other things.

Google officials told the newspaper that the robotics effort will be led by Andy Rubin, the man behind the creation and worldwide adoption of Google's wildly successful Android software.

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, says it's not surprising that a company like Google would seek to venture far afield from its core technology, in this case Internet search tools. The company has already moved into several new businesses, including browsers, Chromebook computers, mapping software, autonomous cars and computerized eyeglasses.

"I expected Google to ultimately get into robots, as it's not too far from an autonomous vehicle, only more flexible in its use cases," said Moorhead. The technology used to make "a very good robot would be similar to that in a super-sophisticated autonomous vehicle."

While he adds that Google risks losing focus by continuing to go far afield from the core search business, the company can easily use some of its existing technology in the new products.

"Technologies behind search and targeted advertising can play a part in robotics," said Moorhead. "Object recognition can be used by a robot and for visual search. Google Now uses predictive analytics to determine what you want to see and when you want to see it, and can also be used by robots to become more autonomous."

Nonetheless, Google must walk a fine line between taking risks and getting lost in the weeds.

"Google risks losing focus, particularly if they get too far ahead of their skis," said Moorhead. "It's important that Google keeps deep research and development separate from its current operations. If not, the real doers and executors who are pulling in the profits today could get disgruntled. If Google does see a short-term profit downturn, there will be immense pressure to pull back on the deep research."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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