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Facebook is latest tech Titan to buy into robotics
Facebook’s rumoured acquisition of UAV manufacturer Titan Aerospace is the latest in a series of deals which have seen companies such as Amazon and Google make moves into the robotics and AI sector. Facebook’s $60m purchase comes after Amazon bought Kiva Systems for almost $800m in 2012 and announced plans to develop ‘Prime Air’ a drone-delivery service. Meanwhile, Google’s acquisition of Boston Dynamics was just one of the eight robotics companies the technology giant bought in 2013.
Facebook will reportedly use Titan’s solar powered UAVs as atmospheric satellites to provide internet coverage in remote parts of the globe where access is currently unavailable. As part of its membership of Internet.org, Facebook will use up to 11,000 of these drones to provide blanket coverage to areas of Africa where current coverage is poor or non-existent. This would provide direct competition to Google’s Project Loon which aims to achieve a similar objective using unmanned balloons, however Facebook seemingly holds an advantage as the UAVs have a far superior lifespan then the balloons (five years compared to 100 days).
The aim of Internet.org is to make ‘internet access available to the two thirds of the world not yet connected’. While Facebook’s UAVs would provide this, the company surely also has one eye on the untapped – and potentially highly lucrative – markets in developing nations that could open up as a result of improved internet access.
The current trend of acquisitions has sparked renewed interest in the robotics sector and share prices have increased accordingly. The share price of iRobot, a designer and manufacturer of robots recorded a 2.99% increase on the day of the Titan Aerospace leak, and is up by over 25% since the start of 2014.
The potential applications for AI and robotics technology are vast, and although the involvement of huge companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google is still in its infancy, it provides a strong indication that these huge players believe robotics and AI have an important part to play both now and in the future.