Go-go-Google robots! Alphabet may be selling off Boston Dynamics

18 Mar 2016

Google parent Alphabet may be selling off Boston Dynamics

Google’s parent company Alphabet is believed to be planning to sell off Boston Dynamics – creators of the awe-inspiring Atlas, LS3 and Alpha Dog robots – because it does not believe the company will generate profits any time soon.

Alphabet’s retreat from robots follows a heady buying spree in 2013, which saw Google buy a number of companies that brought 300 robotics engineers into the company.

However, Google’s foray into robots – under a project code-named Replicant – was undermined when original Android chief Andy Rubin, as well as his replacement James Kuffner, left Google.

The robotics project was reengineered as a group within Google X as part of the restructure that resulted in Alphabet.

Boston Dynamics is the creator of the Atlas highly-mobile humanoid robot, as well as the LS3 rough terrain robot capable of carrying up to 400 pounds of military gear over 20 miles.

These bots are made for walking

A video entitled Introducing Spot, showing the company’s latest four-legged creation, went viral on YouTube in February and has been viewed over 12m times.

According to Bloomberg, citing people familiar with Alphabet’s plans, there is a push at Alphabet to ensure that all companies under its corporate umbrella have plans to generate real revenue.

They are understood to have concluded that Boston Dynamics isn’t likely to produce a marketable product in the next few years, and have put the company up for sale.

Potential acquirers include the Toyota Research Institute or Amazon, which is experimenting with drones and other new-fangled mobile technologies as part of its future fulfilment plans.

It is understood that matters haven’t been helped by tensions that have emerged between Boston Robotics engineers and Google’s other robotics engineers in the Replicant group in California and Tokyo.

At the heart of the matter were differences between blue sky research resulting in robots of the future and Google’s ethos that workers spend 30pc of their time researching new ideas.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years