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It all started rather innocuously when Regina Dugan, former director of DARPA, took an executive role at Google in March 2012 and now is now heading up "Special Projects" for the Motorala company, also owned by Google.

Then there followed the announcement that Andy Rubin, responsible for previously spear-heading Android development at Google, would, instead, now be heading up a newly created Google Robotics division based out of Palo Alto, CA.

Then there followed a spree of Robotic company acquisitions including Meka Robotics.

And; just this morning, news that Google has now acquired Boston Dynamics, an independent company known for creating advanced robotics for organizations world wide, but most famously for it's association with DARPA and more famously it's "BigDog" project.

It all begs the question. What is Google up to?

Rumors abound. Everything from being in bed with the government, creating the Terminator equivalent of Skynet to more humanitarian ideas like creating machines to operate in environments considered to hazardous for humans. Nuclear Reactor cleanup for example. Then there's a more natural collaboration with it's autonomous vehicle division, which kind of reminds me of the taxi driver "Johnny Cab" from Total Recall. Autonomous robots driving "driver-less" cars. Or maybe as servants for the wealthy, or providing health care to the elderly?

A few years ago this would have all sounded like complete science-fiction, something from a movie, but within the next decade this could easily be a reality. Google has acquired quite an arsenal of Robotics experience in the last six months which demonstrates a serious motive to dominate the future of robotics.

The only piece of the puzzle I cannot work out, is why is Regina Dugan working in the Motorola division of Google and not the robotics division? Maybe that's the future name of their robots? Motorola Robotics? Has quite a nice ring to it.

Update Jan, 2nd 2014: So tonight, whilest on a random internet surfing tangent, I figured I'd try the URL http://www.motorolarobotics.com. As I looked at the URL a bit more I wondered about an abbreviated version. Perhaps Moto(rola) Robots. Guess who owns motorobots.com

I was researching the rather unassuming HTML5 <video> tag a bit more; trying to remember what the whole saga with video codec's was all about.

You see; as great as HTML5 is going to be I can already see a couple of flies in the ointment, namely licensing.

Firstly embedding fonts with CSS3 @font-face{ font-family: Delicious; src: url('Delicious-Roman.otf'); } ; simply point it to an OpenType or TrueType Font (OTF and TTF respectively) and boom! There you have it, no more font worries; but, it does bring about the moral question of licensing. Many font's are licensed to Adobe and HTML5 has already spurred some interesting debates on the true "ubiquity" of fonts in HTML5.

So not only do fonts pose an interesting debate, but the issue of video codec's as well. In order to support the HTML5 video-tag the browser needs to natively be able to decode the video content using some form of codec. Codec's are usually propitiatory technology and have to be licensed, so to maintain the true spirit of an "Open-Source" web/browser, so to must the codec be. However. Which one do you use? There are so many open-source codec's out there that finding some common ground could take a while.

Frankly any browser using the -webkit engine doesn't seem to mind. You see the Webkit engine used to be propitiatory technology of Apple. Apple, coincidentally, also have an H.264 MPEG codec which, naturally, they've built into their engine (Webkit) to support native codec translation in HTML5. Translated Google Chrome and Apple's Safari aren't going to have any issues in this regard because they are both based on the Webkit engine.

But what of the other browsers that don't have propitiatory codec's of their own? They have to go the Open Source route. Currently Opera have gone with Theora - OGG. Even more AMAZINGLY though is that Microsoft have gone the H.264 route with Internet Explorer 9.0. A very promising HTML standards compliant browser from Microsoft. Finally!

The question of H.264 codecs though does bring up an interesting dilemma of Intellectual Property rights. Something companies will have to hash out amongst themselves and possibly in the courts (country depending), but, step in Google; saviour of the Internet and enter the VP8 Video Codec and WebM Container Format. A project they announced back at Google I/O in May 2010. In a bid to solve the H.264 dilemma Google have had some fore-sight and recently released the VP8 codec under royalty-free terms. A high-quality, open-source video codec that is touted as working across different browsers and platforms.

Another brilliant bit of fore-sight on Googles part. With the recent launch of Google TV; and I assume a desire to improve their YouTube service they're going to be looking to HTML5 a lot in the very near future and in attempt to side-step any potential H.264 legal issues they've come up with their own codec. Excellent!

For now, I think, most people seem content to stick with HTML4/CSS2. Occasionally dabbling in HTML5 to get things to work on Droid and Apple iOS. However with HTML5 still very much in draft I wonder how much divergence we'll see in HTML5/CSS3 as vendors hash out quirks in a bid to become the first to fully support HTML5, be it sometimes their own interpretation.

It's also interesting to note that CSS Vendor Extensions are now playing a very active role in current HTML5 development; with developers choosing to side with particular vendors. Not surprisngly -webkit is seeing the most interest at the moment as momementum exponentially grows for support on iOS devices and Androids Froyo and Gingerbread operating systems.

Which, by the way, on a completely un-related topic provides mild-amusement. Google's naming convention for it's operating systems. Apple choose big cat names: "Snow Leopard", "Panther", "Tiger". Instead. Google went with "Cupcake", "Donut", "Eclair", "Froyo" and "Gingerbread"! Now that's MY kind of operating system!


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