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商业 - 科技

谷歌的机器人大军蓄势待发

Victor Luckerson/Time 2015年02月17日

谷歌旗下的波士顿动力公司已经组建了一个移动能力出众的机器动物王国。其应用前景非常广泛,比如你可以让机器猫Spot给零乱的房间来个大扫除。此外,波士顿动力一直与美国军方合作,但这些机器人的主要用来辅助美国大兵从事各种军事活动,而不是成为伤害人类的武器。

    2013年4月6日,波士顿,机器人“阿特拉斯”在麻省理工学院计算机科学与人工智能实验室的演示日上展示各种能力。

    还有什么东西比机器人更酷呢?当然是长相可爱的“机器狗”。

    这可能就是一只机器狗的新视频迅速红遍互联网的原因所在。这只名叫Spot的机器狗是波士顿动力公司(Boston Dynamics)的产品,这家机器人公司于2013年被谷歌收购。相对而言,谷歌一直没有表露它在机器人领域日益增长的雄心,但是通过了解波士顿动力公司的运营方式,以及谷歌收购这家公司的理由,我们还是能够观察到很多东西的。

    你至少应该明白以下几件事情:

    波士顿动力公司从事机器人研究已经很长时间了

    早在1992年,前麻省理工学院研究人员马克•雷伯特就创立了这家公司。该公司最初致力于开发用来训练执法人员的拟人仿真软件。但雷伯特在麻省理工学院和卡耐基梅隆大学工作期间,曾经做过大量关于机器人移动能力的研究,因而该公司最终走上了生产机器人的道路。

    他们已经建立起了一个机器动物王国

    Spot并非波士顿动力公司设计的首款机器动物。在此之前,该公司还研制过一只名叫“大狗”(BigDog)的犬型机器人,体长约有3英尺;此外它还研制过一只名叫“野猫”(WildCat),奔跑时速可达每小时29英里的“机器猫”,以及一款6英尺高的人型机器人阿特拉斯(Atlas)。

    移动能力是该公司机器人的独特之处

    波士顿动力公司生产的机器人以极佳的平衡能力而闻名。在那段Spot的视频中,工作人员踢了它一脚,试图把它踹倒。但Spot只是向一旁蹒跚了几步,迅速恢复了站姿。体型更大的“大狗”可以爬上35度的斜坡,还可以自己走过雪地、积水和泥泞的山路。

    总体上,波士顿动力公司的目标是生产一系列能够轻易应对真实世界地形的机器人。它的应用前景非常广泛,比如你可以派遣“阿特拉斯”参与救灾活动,让Spot给零乱的房间来个大扫除等等。

    他们与美军密切合作

    波士顿动力公司与美国国防部高级研究计划局(DARPA)以及美国海军、陆军和海军陆战队都有过合作。“大狗”的部分研发资金就来自于DARPA,它的目标是充当“木牛流马”,与美国大兵一起执行任务。这些机器人极为强大——你可以看看这段“大狗”扔煤渣砌块的视频。不过,它们主要用于辅助人类,而不是成为伤害人类的武器。联合国内部正在讨论各国是否应该在“杀手机器人”能够被轻易生产出来以前,制定一些旨在限制机器人武器化的法规。

    它们是谷歌机器人大军的一部分

    波士顿动力公司是谷歌收购的机器人公司中最出名的一家。不过单单在2013年,谷歌就至少吞并了7家其他的机器人公司。谷歌还委任安卓软件之父安迪•鲁宾领衔新成立的机器人部门,不过鲁宾已于去年10月表示他将离开谷歌。谷歌尚未公开它对这些机器人公司有何计划,但据《纽约时报》报道,谷歌首先将瞄准企业客户,并将提供可以用于制造业和零售业的机器人。(财富中文网)

    译者:朴成奎

    审校:任文科

    What’s cooler than robots? Robots shaped like adorable puppies, of course.

    That likely explains why a new video of a robotic dog is making the Internet rounds. The dog, named Spot, is from Boston Dynamics, a robotics company Google acquired in 2013. Google has been relatively quiet about its growing robotics ambitions, but there’s plenty to be gleaned by understanding how Boston Dynamics operates and why Google bought the company.

    Here’s what you should know:

    Boston Dynamics has been around for a long time

    The company was founded in 1992 by Marc Raibert, a former researcher at MIT. Boston Dynamics originally focused on developing human simulation software used to train law enforcement. But Raibert had done extensive research on robotic mobility at MIT and Carnegie Mellon, leading the company to eventually expand to producing robotic machines.

    They’ve built a whole robot animal kingdom

    Spot is not Boston Dynamics’ first animal-like design. The company has also built BigDog, a 3-foot long, canine-like creature; WildCat, which can run at speeds of 29 miles per hour; and the six-foot humanoid robot Atlas.

    Mobility makes their robots special

    Boston Dynamics’ robots are renowned for their incredible balance. In the video of Spot, company employees can be seen kicking the robotic dog, trying to topple it over. However, Spot simply staggers sideways a few steps and easily regains its footing. The larger BigDog can walk up slopes as steep as 35 degrees and navigate through snow, water and muddy hiking trails.

    Broadly, Boston Dynamics’ goal is to create a fleet of robots that can easily navigate real-world terrain. This could be useful for everything from sending Atlas into a disaster zone to letting Spot clean up a cluttered apartment (sorry, DJ Roomba).

    They work with the military

    Boston Dynamics has partnered with DARPA, the U.S. Navy, the Army and the Marines, according to its website. BigDog was funded in part by DARPA and is envisioned as a kind of robotic pack mule that could accompany soldiers on missions. The robots are incredibly strong—check out BigDog hurling a cinderblock—but to this point their uses seem centered on aiding people, not being weaponized to hurt humans. There’s a growing debate within the United Nations about whether nations need to establish rules about weaponied “killer robots” before they become easy to produce.

    They’re part of Google’s robot army

    Boston Dynamics is the most famous of Google’s robotics acquisitions, but the search giant snatched up at least seven other robotics companies in 2013. It also put Android creator Andy Rubin in charge of a new robotics division, though Rubin said last October that he was leaving Google. Google hasn’t said what it plans to do with all these robot companies, but the New York Times reports it will initially target enterprise customers and offer robots that can be used in manufacturing or retail.

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