Google managed to snap up half a dozen innovative start-ups for robots before its biggest buy of all caught the world's attention. Its purchase of Boston Dynamics in December 2013 blew the lid off -- or would have, if Google hadn't been so characteristically closed-mouthed about its intentions.

Boston Dynamics has built some truly awesome robots for use by the US military, and even if we can't see them in action in the desert, millions have watched them show off their moves on YouTube.

There's the humanoid Atlas, who looks like he really is prepared to hold up the world, and the Cheetah, which can run up to 29 miles an hour. BigDog can navigate a variety of terrain and follow voice commands. Sand Flea leaps tall buildings.

These are not the killer robots of our nightmares. They apparently are used mostly as advance scouts, monitoring situations on the ground with greater efficiency than humans and, of course, less danger of loss of life.

Full story at Minyanville.