, a four-legged robot that can climb muddy hills, and Cheetah, a robot that can outrun the fastest human, now belong to Google.

The world's largest internet search company has acquired Boston Dynamics, a privately held company best known for building robots that look as if they belong in a science-fiction movie and which are often co-developed or funded by the US military.

The acquisition is the latest by Google's secretive robotics division, led by Andy Rubin, former boss of the company's Android mobile operating system. Google's robotics division has acquired more than six other robotics companies.

Google declined to comment on the deal while Boston Dynamics did not return requests for comment. A person familiar with the matter confirmed the deal, which was first reported by the New York Times on Saturday, and said Google would honour Boston Dynamics's military contracts.

The financial terms of the deal could not be established.

Based in Waltham, Massachusetts, Boston Dynamics was founded in 1992 as a spinoff from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The company works with the US army, navy, marine corps and the defense department's advanced research projects agency (Darpa), according to its website.

The company's website lists a catalogue of nine different robots, including a Darpa-funded machine capable of scaling vertical walls using "micro-claws", and a small four-wheeled vehicle that can jump nine metres (30ft) into the air and which is being developed with the US army's Rapid Equipping Force.

The four-legged Cheetah robot, which can surpass speeds of 29 miles (46km) an hour, according to the website, is billed as the "fastest legged robot in the world".

Google has been tight-lipped about what it plans to do with the robots. Media reports earlier this month suggested the company's efforts were focused on developing robotics technology to be used in factories.

Source: Reuters