Toyota Close To Deal To Buy Google Robotics Division

Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL) has announced that it is close to a deal to sell the Google robotics division Boston Dynamics to Toyota (NYSE:TM) to be absorbed into Toyota Research Institute. Acquired by Google in 2013, Boston Dynamics is a research-oriented company that creates machines that can adapt and interact with their surrounding environments. The company has been talking about selling the Waltham-based robotics division for a couple of months now. While a price for the deal has not been announced yet, the talks are reportedly in the final stages.
Founded in 1992 by Marc Raibert, Boston Dynamics is the maker of the Big Dog and Atlas robots. It was born out of MIT’s Leg Lab, a lab that builds and studies legged robots that Raibert founded in 1986. Gill Pratt, the current CEO of the Toyota Research Institute, took over the lab in 1992 after Raibert left the university to build Boston Dynamics.

Tensions between Google and Boston Dynamics have been brewing since 2014. Boston Dynamics workers felt they were not really part of the company as they were physically isolated from the rest of the company. The final straw appeared to be the development of the Atlas humanoid robot.

Google wanted the division to create a consumer based robot that was user-friendly and used wheels for motion. However, Boston Dynamics was spun out of a research facility focusing on using robotic legs and insisted on using legs for its product. The video released to showcase the robot’s capabilities generated a lot of negative reactions in the press and on social media. After the firestorm, Google decided to distance itself from Boston Dynamics.

The Toyota Research Institute is a research-focused company that aligns with Boston Dynamics’ practice. Toyota announced in 2015 that it was looking to spend $1 billion over five years to expand into artificial intelligence and robotics research. The Toyota Research Institute was announced in November 2015. The company started hiring for the initiative in January 2016.

The Toyota Research Institute recently announced another large acquisition. In March, the Institute announced plans to purchase Cambridge-based startup Jaybridge Robotics, a 16-member software engineering company. The deal to acquire Jaybridge hasn’t been finalized, but sources with knowledge of the matter say that the deal is close to closing.