Back in 2013, Google went on a robotics shopping spree with seven acquisitions that included Boston Dynamics and a company called Schaft. That effort has so far yet to materialize, with robotics currently under Alphabet’s X. After failing to find a buyer, Alphabet is shutting down the company focused on bipedal robots.
Founded in 2012, Japanese-owned Schaft was centered on building two-legged robots for use in efforts like disaster relief. According to Nikkei, development will stop later this year, with staff assigned to other jobs within Alphabet.
While Schaft was included in last year’s purchase of Boston Dynamics by SoftBank, the deal reportedly broke down. Alphabet tried to find other buyers and options, but ultimately chose to “wind down” the effort.
In 2016, the company showed off a “low-cost, low-power, compact device” capable of climbing stairs, balancing, and walking on difficult terrain. This robot does not have arms to get back up in the case of falls, but could carry up to 132 pounds and navigate steep terrains, like dirt, rocks, and snow.
Meanwhile, last year, X hinted at what role robotics would play in the company’s future efforts. Leveraging machine learning, Alphabet envisioned robots as helping solve “humanity’s big problems.
Our focus is on solving problems that we believe can have a positive impact on many millions of people. In late 2015, X welcomed a number of robotics start-up teams that had been acquired by Google, and we have spent a lot of time evaluating, validating and investing in the amazing technologies they’d built. Our goal: finding paths to products that would have clear customers and real-world application.
As of late 2017, X was not yet ready to share any details, beyond machine learning being “necessary to make machines that are useful and reliable in unstructured environments.”
And while we’re not prepared to share the details of what we’re up to quite yet, there’s a lot of really exciting work going on as we build a bridge from science fiction to solving high-impact problems in the real world.