Google is trying to sell off Boston Dynamics, the robotics company it purchased in late 2013 for $500 million. The company built robots like BigDog and Atlas.
The deal was spearheaded by Andy Rubin, former chief of the Android division. Rubin left the company in October 2014 and the robot initiative, called Replicant, hasn’t successfully recruited a new leader.
An unnamed source reported to Bloomberg that the heart of Replicant’s trouble was a reluctance by Boston Robotics executives to work with Google’s other robot engineers. Tensions spilled over between the groups into open view with Google when minutes from a November 11 meeting were published to an online forum accessible to other Google workers.
The meeting was run by Jonathan Rosenberg, an adviser to Google parent company Alphabet CEO Larry Page and former Google senior vice president. Rosenberg, who was temporarily in charge of the Replicant group, stated during the meeting, “We as a startup of our size cannot spend 30-plus percent of our resources on things that take ten years.” He added 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.”
Gizmodo suggests that Google’s acquisition of Boston Dynamics was a strange choice from the beginning. The website notes that the robotics company is effectively designing war robots for the government. This, along with the long-term challenges in bringing a robot like this into the market, proved too much for Google.
Google announced in December that Replicant was folded into the company’s advanced research group, Google X. However, Boston Dynamics wasn’t included in that decision. Instead, Bloomberg reports that the company was put up for sale.
Robots like the one Boston Dynamics touted in a YouTube video in February were also a concern for Google. After the video was posted, Google’s public-relations team expressed concern that Alphabet would be associated with this push into humanoid robotics.
Google hasn’t commented on the reported sale of Boston Dynamics.