Google’s parent-company Alphabet has a birth to announce: a new company called Intrinsic which will focus on building software for industrial robots. The subsidiary will be one of Alphabet’s “other bets” — relatively speculative firms focusing on new technology like Waymo (self-driving cars), Wing (delivery drones), and Verily (healthcare and biotech).
Details on what exactly Intrinsic is building or who its customers will be are unclear. A blog post from the company’s new CEO, Wendy Tan White, discusses Intrinsic’s ambitions in broad terms, saying it will “unlock the creative and economic potential of industrial robotics for millions more businesses, entrepreneurs, and developers” by creating software that will make industrial robots “easier to use, less costly and more flexible.”
Robotics have been an obsession at Google for years, but the company’s efforts have been unfocused and have yet to produce any commercial hits.
In 2013, Google went on a shopping spree for robots, buying seven companies in roughly six months, including Schaft (a Japanese firm known for bipedal bots), Bot & Dolly (makers of very cool viral videos), and Boston Dynamics (which needs no introduction). The effort was named “Replicant” and headed by Andy Rubin, an executive who co-founded the Android mobile operating system. Over the years, though, no news emerged from Replicant, and Google either sold off or shut down most of its acquisitions. Why? Partly because robots are hard to make and not very profitable. But also because of Rubin’s departure from the company in 2014 after being accused of sexual misconduct (which Google kept secret).