Alphabet is Looking to Sell Off Boston Dynamics, Google’s Robotics Subdivision

Alphabet expresses doubts that Boston Dynamics is able to develop a marketable product that can be used in the nearest future.

The video, published on YouTube by Boston Dynamics, has been watched by more than 14 million people so far. Google and its division responsible for the video are definitely taking the lead in robot technology. Indeed, it is hard to stay indifferent while seeing those humanlike robots.

However, the video caused some kind of drama. Executives at Google parent Alphabet Inc. expressed doubts  that Boston Dynamics would be able to present a marketable product in the next few years. Moreover Bloomberg reports that the company is up for sale. It could be possibly acquired by the Toyota Research Institute, a division of Toyota Motor Corp., and Amazon.com Inc. All three companies involved in the rumors, Google, Toyota and Amazon, declined to comment.

Google purchased Boston Dynamics at the end of 2013. The company intended to work on Google’s robotics plan codenamed Replicant. Over the following year the project was struggling against leadership changes, failures to collaborate between companies and an unsuccessful effort to recruit a new leader. The core of the problem was seen in unwillingness of Boston Dynamics to cooperate with Google’s other robot engineers in California and Tokyo. The unit also failed to develop vital products that could be released in the near term.

Jonathan Rosenberg, an adviser to Alphabet Chief Executive Officer Larry Page and former Google senior vice president, held the November meeting and said: “We as a startup of our size cannot spend 30-plus percent of our resources on things that take ten years. There’s some time frame that we need to be generating an amount of revenue that covers expenses and (that) needs to be a few years.”

In December, Google made it clear that Replicant had been folded into Google’s advanced research group, Google X.  Later, it came to light that Astro Teller, the head of Google X, told Replicant employees that if they failed to offer practical robotics solution that Google needed, they would be reassigned to work on other things.

However, Boston Dynamics was never folded into Google X. Tensions increased after Boston Dynamics published a video in February showing off one of its latest robots. Google made it plain that it wasn’t satisfied that Alphabet, Google’s parent company, would be associated with a push into humanoid robotics.

Their subsequent e-mails went public as well and all Google employees could see them. Courtney Hohne, a director of communications at Google and the spokeswoman for Google X, asked her colleagues to “distance X from this video,” and wrote that they “don’t want to trigger a whole separate media cycle about where BD really is at Google.”

“There’s excitement from the tech press, but we’re also starting to see some negative threads about it being terrifying, ready to take humans’ jobs,” she wrote.

The conflict can be summarized in general: Boston Dynamics is eager to go its own way and believes it has the answer to robotics, while Google X doubts whether or not robots are the path it really wants to take.

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