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Ex-Google exec Andy Rubin launches new startup lab

The creator of the Android mobile operating system -- and Google's former robotics czar -- is hoping he can help a new generation of entrepreneurs build hardware.

Former Android chief Andy Rubin's new company will focus on hardware startups. James Martin/CNET

Andy Rubin, the former Google whiz that created the Android mobile operating system and headed the company's nascent efforts in robotics, has revealed his next act: a company that helps nurture startups. Specifically, those that build hardware.

His new company, called Playground Global, is based in Los Altos, Calif., and has raised $48 million, according to a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Fortune first wrote about the investment.

Rubin says he's going to offer something a little different from most startup labs. The way these firms typically work is they offer money and resources in exchange for equity, or stock, in whatever startup they're working with. Playground Global will instead offer advice and inroads in manufacturing to the young companies in exchange for equity, Rubin said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

Rubin's got good reason to publicize his Playground Global project. Silicon Valley has become a hot place for physical hardware projects, after the market had been driven for the last several years by software and Internet companies. Companies like smartwatch maker Pebble, home-video surveillance company Dropcam and the smart thermostat maker Nest have grabbed attention from the world's largest tech companies, inspiring competition (like Apple's Watch) and acquisitions.

The emergence of Playground, as well as similar firms that focus on hardware like PCH International and HAXLR8R, is made possible by the falling prices of chips and advancements in computing power.

Google, Hewlett-Packard and venture capital firm Redpoint Ventures are among his backers, according to the Wall Street Journal. Redpoint and HP confirmed the investment, as did Google, though the Internet giant declined to comment further.

Rubin left Google in October to start Playground. He joined Google in 2005, when the company bought Android to make it the centerpiece of its mobile efforts. Right before he left Google, he was heading the company's robotics projects, part of Google's secretive Google X research lab. Before working on Android, Rubin ran a company called Danger, which made an advanced cell phone. It was purchased by Microsoft in 2008.