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Robotics Google Technology

Google's Robotics Group Lacks Leadership (businessinsider.com) 43

An anonymous reader writes: Google has been snapping up promising robotics companies for the past several years, placing them in a division internally called "Replicant." But the division itself is struggling to come together, not having consistent leadership since Andy Rubin left in 2014. One robotics employee said, "The technology pieces we have are incredible. We just have to commit to a particular direction to go in and focus." While Google has accumulated bleeding-edge hardware and software systems, it hasn't been able to bring them together yet in any meaningful way. "Sources say that after Rubin left, there was no one who knew how to tie all the disparate acquisitions together. Rubin had provided a destination, but the team no longer had a road map or a guide to get there."
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Google's Robotics Group Lacks Leadership

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Who cares? This happens all the time in just about every company to some degree. People leave, things are in flux, new people come in, it usually resolves itself...

  • Google's Robotics Group Lacks Leadership

    Anyone who's seen Ex Machina knows this can't be a bad thing. ;)

  • Google doesn't lack leadership, it outgrew it. There's a leadership deficit.

  • by bigpat ( 158134 ) on Monday November 09, 2015 @12:40PM (#50893395)

    Google has always been driven by mission and "robotics" isn't a mission it is like saying we want to make software and hardware without a clear customer and purpose. Robots need a clear purpose.

    Off hand I would realign Google Robotics (Need a better name than Replicant... don't want "cant" in the name) along mission areas for intance:

    1) Sensing (Streetview and aerial sensing drones)
    2) Transportation (autonomous cars and such)
    3) Productive automation (Consumer/light industrial/healthcare/military - non-lethal to go along with the do-no-evil mantra)
    4) Robotics R&D (the core area that will bridge research with application in order to validate novel robotics technology and place it into the pipeline of development for the other mission areas).

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Monday November 09, 2015 @01:30PM (#50893751)

    I agree that they are pretty aimless. But I'll disagree that it's because of anything inimical, so I'm not going to attach this post as a reply to the other person's.

    Google has a problem with productization. Rubin is historically OK with it; he was better at it before Android, but that may have been in part a problem of Android having been acquired, rather than a change in his personal character/charter.

    The problem is that you can't make a Google employee work on stuff they don't find interesting, and the last 20%-10% of turning any project into a real product is really a bunch of mundane t-crossing and i-dotting that's not a lot of fun to do, for most people.

    Personally, I enjoy owning the "it works" bit, and setting that bit on a product, and I find the milestones "release to manufacturing" and "first ship" and "reorder to stores", really rewarding. I like seeing a product come together. But ... in many ways, the journey to get there requires a lot of "not fun".

    The only way to get people to work on things that aren't fun, instead of going to work on the next, new thing -- which is always fun, until you get bored with the new toy, it becomes an old toy, and you want the next new toy -- is to be awesomely inspiring about what you are trying to achieve. It also doesn't hurt, if you happen to be working on something with high visibility that other people have not done before. The self driving car is such a project. So are the "Google vans" for StreetView, if you are into cameras and image stabilization, and space mapping giving limited lanes, and stitching images, and so on.

    Without an inspiring leader, they're just working on "hey, we have these neat technologies, and the groups we bought who developed them think that all othe other groups works can be trivially reproduced, and no one is interested on integrating systems (because, hey, let face it, that would be the un fun stuff).

    I don't see this problem getting resolved any time soon; they certainly haven't been able to do it with Android (and the recent "let's out Samsung Android bugs to blackmail Samsung and the carriers into rolling out software updates to devices that were supposed to be one trick ponies" is a perfect example of fixing the product at the wrong patch point). There's nothing organizationally that would lead one to believe that they could suddenly "get religion" on this issue.

    I'm probably not the person to fix this for them; I'm definitely not an executive type. In the context of Google as it is, it's going to take a project with an extraordinary vision to inspire people to stick out the un fun parts, and then work forward, without people "voting with their feet" to work elsewhere (as happened with Google Reader; once it was a solved problem, it was no longer interesting enough to port onto the new back end infrastructure, and all the principals were off on other more fun stuff).

    Personally? If I were Google, I'd start a "Google Products Unit", and make it an elite place to be, and pre-populate it with people who get their rocks of shipping product to millions or billions of people, and touching people's lives in a positive way on a daily basis, rather than living in the worlds largest toy box. And then give them free reign over integrating Google technologies, like all the robotics companies they've bought, or various other things.

    It'd be a hard row to hoe, but I'm pretty sure there are plenty of people in Google who are just as unhappy with not shipping stuff to large numbers of people as I was during my tenure there, who would jump at the opportunity, even if they were a small percentage of all Googlers.

  • ... until the head robot starts muttering "Kill all humans".

  • What is Google's 'kill rate' on even once-loudly touted services and products? Crazy-high. I suppose a 'no sacred cows' management approach prevents complacency, but it also leads everyone being more concerned about that sudden chop on the back of the neck instead of focusing on any 'vision thing'.
  • Google's Robotics Group Lacks Leadership

    Then their first goal is quite obvious: build a robotic overlord.

    Fight for your bitcoins! [coinbrawl.com]

  • ...Nelson "Bighead" "Baghead" Bighetti
  • Now if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don't see another dime, so where's the motivation? And here's something else, Bob: I have eight different bosses right now.

"Indecision is the basis of flexibility" -- button at a Science Fiction convention.

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