If Google is frightened of robots that could one day take jobs away from humans, Amazon certainly hasn’t shown the same sort of squeamishness.
Bloomberg reports that Google wants to sell Boston Dynamics, the company that designs robots and made a splash last month with a YouTube video featuring some of its impressive technology. The news service wrote that potential buyers could include the Toyota Research Institute, a division of Toyota Motor Corp and Amazon.
Few tech companies have made as much use of robots as Amazon. In 2012, the retailer paid $775 million to acquire Kiva Systems, which builds robotic systems designed for warehouses. Amazon has steadily added robots to the company’s fulfillment systems and as of October, had 30,000 Kiva robots in its warehouses. It’s important to note that Amazon did this while adding tens of thousands of new jobs for humans.
But the question is, with Boston Dynamics, can Amazon succeed where Google failed?
Bloomberg’s story outlined how Google became disillusioned after engineers from Boston Dynamics and Google’s robot unit failed to successfully collaborate. Bloomberg wrote that it learned about numerous conflicts between employees of the two companies from someone who provided leaked copies of their communications.
Beyond the infighting, some at Google also apparently worried that Boston Dynamics’ work could one day become unpopular with the public. The executive was referring to the robot maker’s YouTube video (see it above). The clip went viral, but instead of celebrating, some at Google were spooked. The video shows a two-legged robot trekking through snow-filled woods while slipping and sliding — but maintaining its balance much like a human. Another robot, equipped with two metal arms, picks up boxes even as a man with a stick tries to knock it off balance.
The technology is nothing short of breathtaking, but apparently some people saw the robots as a threat.
According to Bloomberg, Courtney Hohne, a director of communications at Google wrote: “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.” The PR exec continued, “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.”