Oct 31, 2020 | Updated: 09:48 PM EDT

Former Android Chief Leading Robotics Project

Dec 05, 2013 12:17 PM EST

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The man who helped Google create Android OS is looking to try his hand at making real robots. Andy Rubin, the principal engineer charged with building Mountain View’s wildly successful mobile operating system is working on a new generation of robots that the company hopes will one day usher in a new era of automation.

Google has acquired a number of companies in the past half-year to help realize its goal of smarter, better robots, but as for the inspiration for the initiative?

“I have a history of making my hobbies into a career,” Rubin told the New York Times in a telephone interview. “This is the world’s greatest job. Being an engineer and a tinkerer, you start thinking about what you would want to build for yourself.”

Rubin, who is leading the robotics project, has some pretty impressive credentials when it comes to building smart machines. Prior to joining Google, he worked for Apple and was a robotics engineer for Carl Zeiss.

If you’re expecting something along the lines of a glorified Roomba, you shouldn’t hold your breath. Google isn’t especially concerned with the consumer robotics market—at least not yet. For now, the company is focused on ways to automate various manufacturing processes that are performed manually, which is to say by real people.

“The opportunity is massive,” Andrew McAfee, a principal research scientist at the M.I.T. Center for Digital Business told the New York Times. “There are still people who walk around in factories and pick things up in distribution centers and work in the back rooms of grocery stores.”

As an accomplished entrepreneur in his own right, Rubin had long considered starting his own commercial robotics venture. But after stepping down as Google’s Android chief earlier this year, he was courted by Sergey Brin and Larry Page to move forward with the project by way of Mountain View.

It’s unclear what the project’s timeline is or how much money Google has committed, but Rubin says the robotics effort is not intended to be a skunk works endeavor like X lab. The goal is to produce a product that can be sold in the not-too-distant future.

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