Those terrifying robots aimlessly walking through the woods? They could be yours if you have deep enough pockets. Looking at you Amazon. What other company spends billions with the promise of profits later?
Boston Dynamics is up for sale according to reports from Bloomberg Business. Damn, the robot dog will need a new home. Is this the point where we cue the Sarah Mclachlan song?
For sale: Abused robots that will one day exact revenge on their human subjects. Thanks, Google. Do no evil really worked out…
At least, the name change to Alphabet makes more sense now. They were hoping to hide as long as possible for John Connor to save us. Not so fast. They will remember:
“There’s excitement from the tech press, but we’re also starting to see some negative threads about it being terrifying, ready to take humans’ jobs,” Google director of communications for Google X Courtney Hohne wrote in a private email that was later copied onto a Google product forum. “We don’t want to trigger a whole separate media cycle about where BD really is at Google,” she later wrote. “We’re not going to comment on this video because there’s really not a lot we can add, and we don’t want to answer most of the Qs it triggers.”
Here’s the video that caused the consternation:
Ok, it’s creepy. Random robot meandering through what looks like my backyard. Various engineers kicking the robot. Hitting it with a hockey stick. Pissing it off by knocking the box down.
But come on. The Skynet jokes are that. Jokes. Automation has been taking jobs from humans for decades. BD’s drunk robot won’t suddenly grab all the factory work. It has grander designs for us…
Boston Dynamics Lacked a Product
Videos aside, the issue at Boston Dynamics is a lack of marketable products. The US military passed on the robotic pack mules essentially sealing the fate of the company.
No one thought to toss a few autocannons on the pack mule robot? If you blow up a few huts, the military is on board. Carting around supplies? That’s boring.
When purchased in 2013, Google envisioned Boston Dynamics would be able to produce affordable robots to mass market within a few years. Instead, the company turned out to be hard to work with and unlikely to turn viral videos of them abusing robots into a revenue stream.
Then again, Google also called the project Replicant. I know everyone loves a James Cameron or Ridley Scott movie, but damn. Don’t call the mass market robotics project ‘Replicant.’
How can we get these humanoid robots into homes nationwide and still scare the shit out of people? Oh yeah, call it Replicant. That’ll go over well.
Amazon and Toyota have been floated as possible suitors, but airing the company’s dirty laundry will not endear it to companies looking to acquire it. Instead, it guarantees a discounted price for any company looking to chance it.
The easiest answer is Amazon. The company wants to automate its warehouse system, and Boston Dynamics has shown it can take a kick or a hockey stick and still carry a box.
Other companies? Fedex or UPS would be interesting. Both need to blunt Amazon’s push into shipping and snapping up Skynet’s ground army would be perfect against Amazon’s army of drones.
For now, Google X’s robotic division has moved on to other projects. Boston Dynamics? They are looking for a new home. Don’t worry; they’ll be back.