Earlier this year, Mr. Rubin stepped down as head of the company's Android smartphone division. Since then he has convinced Google's founders, Sergey Brin and Mr. Page, that the time is now right for such a venture, and they have opened Google's checkbook to back him. He declined to say how much the company would spend.
Mr. Rubin compared the effort with the company's self-driving car project, which was started in 2009. "The automated car project was science fiction when it started," he said. "Now it is coming within reach."
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He acknowledged that breakthroughs would still be necessary in areas like software and sensors, but said that hardware issues like mobility and moving hands and arms had been resolved.
Mr. Rubin has secretly acquired an array of robotics and artificial intelligence start-up companies in the United States and Japan.
Among the companies are Schaft, a small team of Japanese roboticists who recently left Tokyo University to develop a humanoid robot, and Industrial Perception, a start-up here that has developed computer vision systems and robot arms for loading and unloading trucks.
Also acquired were Meka and Redwood Robotics,makers of humanoid robots and robot arms in San Francisco, and Bot & Dolly, a maker of robotic camera systems that were recently used to create special effects in the movie "Gravity." A related firm, Autofuss, which focuses on advertising and design, and Holomni, a small design firm that makes high-tech wheels, were acquired as well.
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The seven companies are capable of creating technologies needed to build a mobile, dexterous robot. Mr. Rubin said he was pursuing additional acquisitions.
Unlike Google's futuristic X lab, which does research on things like driverless cars and the wearable Google Glass device, the robotics effort — moonshots aside — is meant to sell products sooner rather than later. It has not yet been decided whether the effort will be a new product group inside Google or a separate subsidiary, Mr. Rubin said.
The Google robotics group will initially be based here in Palo Alto, with an office in Japan. In addition to his acquisitions, Mr. Rubin has begun hiring roboticists and is bringing in other Google programmers to assist in the project.
While Google has not detailed its long-term robotics plans, Mr. Rubin said that there were both manufacturing and logistics markets that were not being served by today's robotic technologies, and that they were clear opportunities.
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This is not the first time that Google has strayed beyond the typical confines of a tech company. It has already shaken up the world's automobile companies with its robot car project. Google has not yet publicly stated whether it intends to sell its own vehicles or become a supplier to other manufacturers. Speculation about Google's intentions has stretched from fleets of robotic taxis moving people in urban areas to automated delivery systems.
Mr. Rubin said that one of his frustrations about today's consumer electronics industry was its complexity. He is hoping robotics will be different.
"I feel with robotics it's a green field," he said."We're building hardware, we're building software. We're building systems, so one team will be able to understand the whole stack."