Why the latest robot war is much more exciting than who - or what - delivers to your door

The battle of earth and sky may be about to become automated, as Google reveals it's taken over seven robotics companies over the last six months.

The New York Times reports that, at this stage, the internet titan doesn't plan on selling the products it's developing to consumers. So, suggests the paper, perhaps they'll be paired with its self-driving cars to deliver goods.

The news comes in the trail of the Amazon drone story - a fleet of un-manned flying craft carrying your parcels to you.

Aside from the prospect of imminent rivalry, the step forward in the rise of the robots is pretty thrilling.

Robots could be harder, faster, stronger (and possibly better) than us.


Robots will have a resilience and durability that human bodies don't have. They'll be able to work without getting tired, and in hazardous and dirty conditions. They'll make life easier and safer - imagine a robot security guard, or one that dismantles old laptops.


They'll also be able to work more quickly and efficiently than us, and more dogmatically - no mistakes, no boredom. They'll also get better, patterning behaviour and learning - again, opening doors for us.


We already rely on robotics when it comes to lifting (everything above a small size), but what's really exciting is the development of humanoid robots that could refine smaller and more precise movements. The National University of Singapore has developed a robotic muscle that can extend like real muscle tissue to five times its original length. Vitally, it has the potential to lift 80 times its own weight.

The mechanisation of labour - and we're talking sophisticated jobs, not just repetitive tasks - means more leisure time for humans, more specialisation and more choice. It wouldn't be the first time technology has pushed human workers out of a job, but new jobs are found and thought up, and people move on to bigger and better things. It's certainly no bad thing in the long run.


Robots may even evolve emotional and empathetic understanding - not that that's a prerequisite you'd necessarily list for something dropping off a delivery, but it is something we should welcome.