Google's parent Alphabet to sell robotics company Boston Dynamics

Google's parent Alphabet Inc., has put military robotics company Boston Dynamics up for sale, Bloomberg yesterday reported, citing people familiar with the plans.

Potential acquirers for the maker of advanced humanoid and four-legged robots such as BigDog and Atlas, include the Toyota Research Institute, a division of Toyota Motor Corp., and Amazon.com Inc., which makes robots for its fulfillment centers, according to Bloomberg.

Google acquired Massachusetts-based Boston Dynamics in late 2013 as part of its plan to advance into the field of robotics and dubbed its robot initiative as Replicant (See: Google acquires robotics firm Boston Dynamics).

The deal was carried out by Andy Rubin, former head of Google's Android smartphone software unit, who hired a team of robot specialists and later merged Replicant with Google's advanced research group, Google X.

Replicant did not take off as Rubin left the company a year later and there was no coordination between the teams of Boston Dynamics and Google X since Boston Dynamics was based in Massachusetts and Google X in California.

Replicant's major problems was the reluctance of Boston Dynamics executives to work with Google's other robot engineers in California and Tokyo and the unit's failure to come up with products that could be released in the near term, the report added.

Tensions between Boston Dynamics and the rest of the Replicant group came out in the open when written minutes of a meeting held in early November and several subsequent emails were unintentionally published in an online forum.

These documents were made available to Bloomberg by a Google employee.

The November meeting was chaired by Jonathan Rosenberg, an adviser to Alphabet CEO Larry Page and former Google senior vice president, who was temporarily in charge of the Replicant.

In the meeting, Rosenberg said, "we as a start-up of our size cannot spend 30-plus per cent of our resources on things that take ten years," and that "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."

Boston Dynamics builds advanced robots with mobility, agility, dexterity and speed through sensor-based controls and computation.

Its product range includes the LS3, Atlas, Petman, Cheetah, BigDog, SandFlea, RHex, RiSE and LittleDog.

US defence organisations like Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Army, Navy and Marine Corps and private companies like Sony Corporation consult Boston Dynamics for advice and for help to create advanced robots.