It was back in March when Alphabet, Google’s parent company, had announced that its robotics division called Boston Dynamics was going on sale. According to sources familiar with the matter, the agreement is apparently almost finalized.
But the company that will be purchasing Boston Dynamics might be a surprise for some people because Toyota – the Japanese automaker – is the one making this serious investment. Neither Alphabet nor Toyota has revealed the price of the acquisition, but a Tech Insider report claims that the “ink is nearly dry” for the deal.
As far as the reason behind Alphabet’s decision to sell its robotics division goes, it seems that the company’s executives want to get rid of any branch that isn’t able to create a consumer product in the next few years.
Boston Dynamics, which is currently experimenting with various AI robots, was one of those units, which led to the selling decision. In addition, reports also revealed that there was tension between Alphabet and the team of engineers at Boston Dynamics.
A former employee of the robotics division referred to Toyota’s purchase of Boston Dynamics as a “friendly buyout,” thanks to the ties that it has to the Toyota Research Institute.
Founded in November 2015, the Toyota Research Institute was established to focus on research and development of artificial intelligence and robotics. Its CEO is Gill Pratt, who used to collaborate in the past with Boston Dynamics founder and CEO Marc Raibert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Once the deal is official, several Google employees working on robotics will also leave the company to continue the project at the Toyota Research Institute; Boston Dynamics operations manager Joseph Bondaryk and Google robotics division co-founder James Kuffner are among the group.
Most of the early projects developed by Boston Dynamics were funded by the United States military, and when Google acquired it, the team was allowed to continue working on its existing contracts with the military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
However, Google was not in the least interested in funding military robots. In 2014, the tension between Google and Boston Dynamics escalated, leading to Andy Rubin, co-founder of Google’s robotics division, leaving the company.
Toyota’s purchase might be a good thing for Boston Dynamics because the company is focused on research and not on releasing products to consumers.
Image Source: Boston Dynamics