A High Profile Sale
If the rumors—which were reported in Bloomberg—prove to be true, it would be a startling development, but, in hindsight, perhaps not entirely unexpected.
Boston Dynamics—which has excelled in creating sophisticated robots capable of standing, walking, running, jumping, and even resisting human misbehavior (such as being hit and shoved)—was acquired by Alphabet in 2013, and has been putting out some pretty amazing demonstrations of its technology. Tens of millions of people have watched their videos of disturbingly lifelike robots on YouTube.
But the issue seems to be a crassly material one—simple finances.
Alphabet’s stated goal has been to find and incubate companies with a real potential for creating marketable products and generating revenue; apparently, despite its jaw-dropping demonstrations, Boston Dynamics wasn’t found to be up to that standard.
Plenty of Customers
The commercial viability of Boston Dynamics has come into question, since they didn’t seem to have a path to producing marketable products in the near future. Military contracts, for instance, failed to materialize.
Part of the problem, according to the Bloomberg article, “was a reluctance by Boston Dynamics executives to work with Google’s other robot engineers in California and Tokyo and the unit’s failure to come up with products that could be released in the near term.”
Still, the prospects for an acquisition seem pretty rosy. Both Amazon and Toyota have mooted the possibility that they might be interested (for the right price); Amazon is famously pursuing automation technology, in both drones and warehouse robotics, and acquiring Boston Dynamics would certainly conduce to their overall business strategy. Toyota, meanwhile, is heavily investing in robotics at its research centers.
So we’ll see.
It would be a shame if the sophisticated robotics designed by Boston Dynamics were simply mothballed; still, a fortuitous acquisition and change in leadership might just give it the needed push to finally start creating commercially-viable robotics.