Google Parent Alphabet Looks To Sell Underperforming And Skynet Press Liability Boston Dynamics Robotics Division
We're kidding, of course, at least about the fear of a Skynet scenario playing out in the near future. Alphabet has no worry of these machines rebelling against the tests that its humans creators put them through, such as trying to maintain balance while being pushed around with the end of a hockey stick and carrying objects from point A to point B as the objects are repeated knocked from the robots' grip.
No, what Alphabet fears is that Boston Dynamics might still be several years away from building a product it can market and sell, according to the "two people familiar with the company's plans" that Bloomberg Business
There might also be some drama involved in the situation. Google acquired Boston Dynamics in 2013, along with several other robotic firms, under the guidance of Andy Rubin, former Android boss. A robot initiative called Replicant was created, but changes in leadership and issues getting the different robotic companies to collaborate threw a wrench into Google's plans.
A person supposedly familiar with Replicant says that one of the bigger issues was that Boston Dynamics didn't want to work with other robot engineers in California and Tokyo, Combined with the company's inability to build a product that could be marketed and sold in the near term, Alphabet has now decided to sell the company.
On top of that, there was some concern from Google's public relation team over the aforementioned Atlas video. The main fear was that people would associate Alphabet with a perceived push into humanoid robotics, and that the media was focusing on the potential downsides.
"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," wrote Courtney Hohne, a director of communications at Google and the spokeswoman for Google X.
Hohne also asked her colleagues to "distance X from this video."
Despite concerns from decision makers at Google and Alphabet, Boston Dynamics has done some wonderful things in the field of robotics. The good news for the company is that buyers are out there—Toyota Research Institute and Amazon were both named as potential suitors.
Whatever happens, we hope Boston Dynamics lands somewhere that lets its engineers continue to build awesome robots, not just task specific products.