Friday, March 18, 2016

(The Big Disrupt) Robotics: why Google is really selling Boston Dynamics

The news of Google selling Boston Dynamics has largely been framed as Google's parent company alphabet needing the robotics firm to drum up some revenue and come up with market ready projects but the truth is that Google found out the hard way that you can sell products that are objectionable or even dangerous but you can't sell products that spook potential customers every time you market a successful demo. 

Google are experiencing a similar issue with their self driving car project as anxiety about handing over control to automated cars working off sensors increases with every report of an road accidents no matter how minor. While the internal intrigue at Google leading up to Boston Dynamics being put up for sale is interesting to a point, what's really interesting is that Google was applying pressure on robotic firms under its umbrella for practical market solutions despite knowing that most Boston Dynamics projects are long term in the first place. 

Perhaps Google ran out of patience and were looking for quick results out of their robotics business units but why a profitable company with a lot of cash in the bank would pressure Boston Dynamics for results doesn't make a lot of sense. Google putting pressure on Boston Dynamics and then possibly selling the firm to Amazon makes even less sense given logistics driven firms like Amazon would be among Google's first customers should Boston Dynamics create a robot who could handle simple human tasks a little faster such as moving boxes onto a truck.  

The only convincing reason why Google are selling Boston Dynamics is that the company is more concerned about optics than we thought. Many were of the opinion that the purchase of Boston Dynamics was a PR ploy and with the firm's recent 'creepy' creations spooking the public and members of press, Google may have made the calculation that the firm and its creations had served their purpose. 

Given Google's ability to masterfully handle the press and being one the few firms able to control its narrative, it's easy to forget to that Google are a powerful corporation and few things are more important to a corporation of Google's size and reach than its reputation. Google are well aware that holding on to a firm in Boston Dynamics that might create a robot that could stack boxes, answer calls, or draft a legal writ better than humans would pose a serious threat to what they hold dear which makes Google's decision to sell the firm a wise one. 

In sum, whatever motivated Google to put Boston Dynamics up for sale, either the optics of its creations or  its inability to make money, it certainly helps the firm avoid being stained forever as the company that powered the robot driven world of the future. 

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