MOUNTAIN VIEW (CBS SF) — Only weeks after a couple of online clips of their high-tech creations went viral, there are reports that Google parent company Alphabet Inc. may be looking to unload robotics arm Boston Dynamics.
According to a story published on Bloomberg.com Thursday, Alphabet Inc. executives have decided that the likelihood of the robotics company turning a profit in the near future was unlikely given that it will be at least several years before the company is manufacturing a marketable product.
The move comes just over two years after Google acquired the Massachusetts-based company and several other robotics businesses under the umbrella group called Replicant and placed Android founder Andy Rubin at the head of the division. Rubin’s departure after only a year at the helm of the division may have led to the move to sell, some have speculated.
Bloomberg said that some possible buyers of Boston Dynamics include Toyota’s Research Institute division and Amazon.com, though neither company responded to inquiries.
Boston Dynamics created a stir in late February when the company released a new video demonstrating the latest generation of its bipedal humanoid robot called Atlas.
The over two-minute clip posted on YouTube is ostensibly to show off the capabilities of the new Boston Dynamics robot, but many viewers made note of what seemed to be “android bullying” as a technician used a hockey stick and a pole to push Atlas around and at one point knock him over completely.
Another clip posted a week or two later showed a flesh-and-blood terrier facing off with the Boston Dynamics robot dog “Spot.”
In the clip, the terrier barks at Spot throughout the encounter, circling, confronting. And even chasing down Spot.
Paul Saffo — a Bay Area based technology forecaster — says the viral video is cute, but it’s more of a novelty than anything for now.
“The Boston Dynamics technology is really fascinating, but it is a long, long way from commercial production,” said Saffo. “It’s still essentially a research project.”
According to technology website Engadget.com, the military thought Spot could join ground reconnaissance.
But there’s no word right now on what its future holds for Spot on the battlefield or in households.