Alphabet may be putting its most high-profile robotics acquisition up for sale just three years after purchasing it. Bloomberg reports that Boston Dynamics, maker of robots which can walk, run, jump, and remain upright when pushed and kicked by humans, is being shopped around. The report cites Amazon and Toyota as potential acquirers, and notes that this would signal a big retreat from robotics, a field beloved by former Google executive Andy Rubin.
Videos of the company's robotic creations routinely racked up tens of millions of views and inspired countless articles about the frightening and awe-inspiring capabilities of its cutting edge creations. But that fear, along with the company's previous ties to military projects, may have been its undoing at Alphabet. According to the Bloomberg report, Alphabet executives, looking to trim its massive portfolio of ambitious research and development projects, were struggling to see an easy path to commercial products for Boston Dynamics current portfolio. It probably didn't help that the company failed to secure crucial military contracts for flagship bots.
While it's lack of revenue potential may have doomed its future at Google, Boston Dynamics is likely to find a number of very interested buyers. Amazon has invested heavily in robotics, paying $775 million for Kiva Systems in 2012. It has developed a number of robotic solutions to improve speed and efficiency at its warehouses, and is at the forefront of tech companies pushing to develop drone delivery. Another potential buyer is Toyota, which uses robots in manufacturing, and has focused on the industry heavily at its research institute.
Amazon has already shown it can make money off industrial robots
The purchase of Boston Dynamics was led by Rubin, a prominent Google executive who led the development of its Android operating system. Rubin left in October of 2014, and is now working on Playground, an incubator with a heavy emphasis on robotics. After his departure, Boston Dynamics reportedly struggled to integrate well with Google's other robotics projects in California and Japan. Its most recent demonstrations also raised concerns about robots taking human jobs, something Alphabet didn't want to be associated with. That, combined with the long path to real revenue, may have sealed its fate at Google in the Alphabet era.