Google Rejects Military Funding in Robotics

SCHAFTGoogle doesn’t want the U.S. military’s money.

Even though the Internet search giant owns two companies that have contracts with the Pentagon, Google is choosing to forego military funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in at least one robotic competition.

Google bought the robotics firm Schaft that had developed a bipedal robot that won DARPA’s Robotics Challenge. The competition asked companies to develop a robot that could perform disaster response tasks to include navigating debris, climbing ladders and turning off a valve.

Schaft earned the highest score in DARPA’s competition. Google and Schaft are not bailing from the program all together, but the company is moving to the “self-funded Track D of the program,” DARPA officials announced last week.

Google earned $37 billion in 2013 and it appears the company would prefer to distance itself from the military in its initiative to develop next generation robots. Enough questions are already being asked about Google and other companies’ cooperation with NSA and U.S. intelligence agencies.

Along with Schaft, Google also bought Boston Dynamics, a company that DARPA has come to depend on to develop multiple pieces of equipment.

Boston Dynamics has developed such projects as the Big Dog, which is a four-legged drone being built to carry supplies for combat troops over rough terrain. The research lab has also developed the Sand Flea, an 11-pound robot that can leap onto roofs and over walls while carrying sensors.

Robotics already play a crucial role for the military. If Google keeps cherry picking the military’s top research arms, it’s a wonder if that could help or hurt the level of technology to reach the military.

On one hand, Google is a company obviously more qualified to lead innovative development versus the military. However, if Google isn’t willing to work with the military, it’s a wonder if those technological leaps will benefit troops.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to Military.com. He can be reached at mhoffman@tandemnsi.com.
  • hibeam

    Soon these robots will be flipping burgers. This will free up the union wanna-bes to demand $15 an hour to hold the door open for you.

  • mpower6428

    Good on google. The history of military technology is really just a history of technology research turned to military use and then suppressed for “security” reasons. yes, even those spy satellites, digital computing, plastics/chemicals and metallurgy. its the egg, not the chicken.

    • Musson

      Google’s got more money than they know what to do with. Why do they need taxpayer dollars?

      • Ben

        Did you miss the part of the headline that says “Google Rejects Military Funding in Robotics?”

    • Riceball

      You mean like the internet, jet powered aircraft, GPS, the medevac, fly by wire flight systems, and a whole host of other tech originally developed for the military that somehow wasn’t suppressed. Gee, the military must have overlooked those or found them not so useful.

  • Brian B. Mulholland

    Perhaps Google’s disinterest in DARPA funding reflects an unwillingness to be limited in the future, civilian use of the intellectual property they create. This does blend, without too much difficulty, into the work that Google’s done on self-driving automobiles.

    • EW3

      Raises the question about what did DARPA get for it’s money.
      Do they own the technology already developed in that project?

      • Mike

        DARPA is an agency, they didn’t get anything. Boston Dynamics was the company that funded DARPA until they sold to google. Do you people ready anything; ffs.

    • Hunter76

      Google has made mountains without DoD dollars. Why would it want to switch?

      DARPA has had some spectacular successes encouraging technology. Very unDoDy.

  • hibeam

    When I was a kid I hated Dick Tracy cartoons because of the two way wrist radio. In those days a TV camera was a huge thing on wheels that a technician pushed around. The garbage cans they flew around in I was quite sure would come to pass. Now the two way wrist radio is a reality. The flying garbage cans never happened. Get ready for computers smarter than we are. Its right around the corner. They will be so smart they won’t be able to teach us what they understand. Its inevitable. And scary as hell.

  • guest

    DARPA funding from Congress always was based on dual use technology between Military and Commercial civilian. Better to spin off the technology to Google, than to buyers in Asia. If the military needs anything, they buy it from companies anyway. Why not google? Anyway, these are R&D funds and Google doesn’t need any “partners” or money and I am sure they want to stay far away from the peer reviewers and their revolving doors with other companies. In this case, it is Google which is bringing the value added, by funding the companies that had seed money from Congress, through DARPA.

    Of course, if they do not agree with the war plans, well, maybe they will not be selling…

    Welcome to the World According to Google.

    As far as this statement in the article:

    “Enough questions are already being asked about Google and other companies’ cooperation with NSA and U.S. intelligence agencies.”

    … this is a bit misleading.

    Google had no idea the back haul networks were being sniffed and they were one of the companies suing to be able to disclose how many requests they were being FORCED to provide via information requests, mostly from the FBI, who did not have a back haul way, evidently.

  • DHYF

    It’s ironic that Google wants to distance itself from the US military and NSA when it was DARPA funds way back when that funded the intranet (DARPA Net) the predecessor to the Internet which Google depends on. Ahhh the cyclical nature of life ..

  • chuckb

    The National Science Foundation funded the research at Stanford that led to Google’s first technology when the graduate students working on became entraprenneurs. As with DARPA’s funding of ARPANET, the US federal government investment, funds appropriated by congress and stewarded by federal employees, has been more than repayed to the American people.

  • oblatt22

    Guess Google just doesn’t see itself as the sort of loser company that is dependent on defrauding the government to survive.

  • Tom

    Google not taking government funding is likely nothing more than them avoiding cost accounting and expense rules that come along with any such funding, I would not ascribe it to anything more than that.

  • blight_

    Not a big deal. Let Google pave the way and the military can reap the winnings from the private sector.

  • Hey google…I like the fact, your not selling your soul to DOD.

    • IronV

      But you do like the way tGoogle exploited DOD funding to build the internet…

  • Weldon

    Google management could not help Robotics. They don’t have the brain power. This week they bought another company for $2 Billion that will not have a product for another year. They are in their own virtual reality.

    • NeoconBrony

      That was Facebook. Facebook bought Oculus.

  • I find it dangerous for our national security when companies within our borders turn their backs on the country that defends them.

    Suppose Boeing refused to build aircraft for the military?
    Or Pfizer stopped selling drugs to VA hospitals?
    Or Enron stopped selling fuel to the military?

  • Rob C.

    Stupid Google destroying another opportunity to save soldiers lives on the battlefield. Hope they suffer for their being jerks. Its too bad that Boston Dynamics didn’t damn themselves to being sold to Google. Goes to show they were only in the money and now that technology effort to make Big Dog and its kin were wasted. I don’t care if their efforts may give them insight into developing some commercial robot no one asked for. Aside from space exploration and manufacturing, robots have not sold well in the commercial market. I hope the US government is able to find something to replaced it, Big Dog had allot potential.

  • Matt

    I bet Google does not want to give up intellectual property rights. On many projects, if the government funds it, the government asserts at least some control over the intellectual property. You can check out the following link for a relatively readable explanation.
    http://www.whaylaw.com/IPRightsGovK.htm

    Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, I have no connection to Whay Law.

  • Phono

    I do have more trust in the pentagon than in google.
    Who at google has made an oath on the constitution?
    (Even it’s not the constitution I live under).
    A firm’s motto doesn’t substitute that.