Google, or rather its parent company Alphabet, has sold off one of its robot development companies, Boston Dynamics to a Japanese tech conglomerate. Details here.
SoftBank is rumoured to have spent US$100m on the acquisition.
The question surrounding this must be who has made the better deal. Both companies are highly profitable forward thinking companies.
So has Google sold off a company with massive potential or has SoftBank purchased something which will never make a decent profit?
Or perhaps, neither of these things?
Probably Google has a company which doesn’t fit in with its strategy, it is going big on driver-less cars while Boston Dynamics, a spin off from MIT, makes robots which mimic animal movement.
SoftBank sells Pepper, a robot companion who lives in your home. Perhaps Softbank can enhance its product with the knowledge, hardware and quite possibly patents which come with taking this company from Google’s hands?
Outside of the seller and buyer, no one knows for sure what each sees in the deal. But it would be worth keeping an eye on what Pepper develops into in the next few years.
The changes major technological developments bring are as unpredictable as they are widespread.
Cars, computers, cell phones and the steam engine are examples of world changing advances.
Robots as a whole will change everything in ways we cannot even conceive yet.
One of the areas we are starting to get an idea about though is self-driving cars. There was an interesting article here about this recently which was based on a paper published by intel here.
The article asks if you or your business has a self-driving car strategy. This is an important question for all of us to consider.
What happens when we don’t have to control the vehicle? The seats in the vehicle will no longer need to face the direction of travel, with line of sight for the driver in as many directions as possible. We can sit facing each other and we can work during our commute. We can play games with the family on long journeys. We can have our after work beer on the way home (will drinking while driving become commonplace?).
If, as is suggested vehicle ownership drops and the cars we move around in become merely taxis, then the vehicle wi-fi becomes our gateway to the world – think how your coffee shop allows you to access its wi-fi.
If the cars are taxis, then on longer journeys we will seek food and drink so the machines become vending machines too.
But, if we look at vehicle ownership currently, this is lower generally in big urban areas where parking space is at a premium and the economics of public transport makes good service achievable.
In less densely populated areas public transport provides less good service and car ownership is higher. One can assume this pattern will be replicated by shared self-driving cars in the near future.