New dog, new tricks: a military robot in Hawaii, July 2014.
U.S. Marine Corps / Sgt. Sarah Dietz

In late 2013, Google announced that it had acquired Boston Dynamics, an engineering and robotics company best known for creating BigDog, a four-legged robot that can accompany soldiers into rough terrain. Much of the resulting hype focused on the Internet giant and when it might start making various types of robots. What was good news for Google, however, represented a major loss for the U.S. Department of Defense. Although Google agreed to honor Boston Dynamics’ existing defense commitments, including its contracts with the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Marine Corps, the company indicated that it might not pursue any additional work for the military. In practice, this means that the Department of Defense could lose its edge in the emerging field of autonomous robotics, which once fell almost exclusively under its domain.

It came as no surprise that Google had the money to buy

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  • WILLIAM J. LYNN III is former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense and CEO of Finmeccanica North America and DRS Technologies.
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