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Android Founder Leaves Google to Build Hardware Incubator

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Photo Credit: meneame comunicacions, sl via flickr

Google’s “moonshot” specialist is moving on.

Andy Rubin, the chief architect of Android, is leaving Google to create an incubator for hardware start-ups.

Rubin’s departure is being described as a major blow to Google’s robotics program, which he has led since early 2013.

Andy Rubin
Andy Rubin

Google has been snapping up robotics firms — including Boston Dynamics and Atlas — right, left and center since Rubin took the reins of the program last March. CEO Larry Page and co-founder Sergey Brin had loosened the purse strings to fund the project, an indication of their faith in Rubin’s abilities to lead the company into new areas beyond its core search and advertising business.

“I want to wish Andy all the best with what’s next,” Page said in a statement to the media. “With Android he created something truly remarkable-with a billion plus happy users. Thank you.”

Page in a Google+ post last years described Rubin’s Android “as a crazy idea that ended up putting a supercomputer in hundreds of millions of pockets. It is still very early days for this, but I can’t wait to see the progress.”

James Kuffner, who worked under Rubin as part of the robotics group, will now lead the division, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Although Rubin has never offered any specifics about Google’s robotic aspirations he told The Times last year that he would focus on using technology to free humans from monotonous and unpleasant tasks. As an example of the type of systems he hopes to build, Rubin used a windshield wiper that automatically operates when it rains.

“We’re building systems, so one team will be able to understand the whole stack,” Rubin told the publication, adding that breakthroughs in areas like software and sensors are a goal for the future. He said that hardware issues such as mobility have been solved.

“Like any moonshot, you have to think of time as a factor,” he added. “We need enough runway and a 10-year vision.”

Rubin, who first joined Google in 2005 as part of the tech titan’s acquisition of Android, has had little to say about his departure.

In an e-mail to the Wall Street Journal, he said he is leaving because he wants to try something new on his own, adding that he “didn’t really have any issues with independence” at Google.

“Larry enabled the robotic effort to run exactly the way I wanted it to, and we made great progress in our first year,” he wrote.

Not everyone thinks Rubin made the decision to leave, however.

“It’s surprising and sounds pretty unplanned,” IDC analyst Scott Strawn told the WSJ. “If it was voluntary on Mr. Rubin’s part, you would think he would see part of the robotics project through to completion to have something to show publicly before leaving.”

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Jennifer Cowan

Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.

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  • Most people think of Google as a search engine but Larry and Sergey have always thought of Google as an AI. If you think about it stands to reason – gather users data searches, analyze it, make sense of it, incorporate it into a customized Android operating system (hmm, hiding in plain sight perhaps?), add the ability to talk and understand speech, use real world Glass data for sight, have detailed geo positioning maps, add this to robotics and suddenly you have an autonomous robot hooked into the internet that can be instructed to do what ever they want.

    How long before “using technology to free humans from monotonous and unpleasant tasks” starts to put your company out of business? How long before they extend this into other non monotonous and unpleasant tasks? How long before autonomous robots are used in wars? And if you think all this is impossible would you have imagined a self driving vehicle less than ten years ago?

    Just because you technically can, doesn’t mean you should! This really needs extensive debating. Just who is responsible for an autonomous robot that kills a human being – are we going to see robot jails? Or perhaps it’s the operator – ahh, but wait the robot made the decision based on it’s own criteria. What about the programmer then – they must be at fault? But what if the robot “learned” this by itself – I guess the programmer would be off the hook. Google then? Good luck trying to prove they were responsible. These problems are already occurring with drone strikes – who is responsible for any mistakes made? Quite handy from the people controlling them then…