The world’s biggest automaker is known best for its cars, but that could soon change if Toyota keeps buying robotics companies. According to multiple reports, a new branch of the Japanese conglomerate is in talks with Google to buy Boston Dynamics, with a source telling Tech Insider that the “ink is nearly dry.” This wouldn’t be the first such company to be acquired by the Toyota Research Institute — back in March, the company purchased the Cambridge-based Jaybridge Robotics to help with its research and development of artificial intelligence and robotics.
Established in November of last year, the Toyota Research Institute is a relatively young company housed under Toyota Motor Corporation, and its mission is to bridge the “gap between fundamental research and product development” by way of AI systems and big data. As such, its interest in Boston Dynamics comes as little surprise — the company is known for its somewhat bizarre humanoid and animal-esque robots, like the slightly creepy reindeer robots it debuted last Christmas.
The move also isn’t entirely unexpected on Google’s part, as sources claim that tensions have been running high between the tech giant and the Boston-based robotics company. Apparently, there’s been trouble in tech paradise since 2014, but problems reached their boiling point this February. At the time, Bloomberg reported that Google execs believed Boston Dynamics to be unlikely to “produce a marketable product in the next few years.” And now, it looks like Google is offloading for good.
But Boston Dynamics doesn’t seem to be terribly upset about the possibility of leaving one industry monolith for another. In fact, Tech Times reports that a former Boston Dynamics employee called Toyota’s potential deal a “friendly buyout,” citing the companies’ strong ties to one another. So if Google doesn’t want to do anything with vaguely scary humanoid robots, maybe Toyota can work a different sort of magic.
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