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Instant Analysis: Report Says Google to Sell Animal Robot Unit

By Eric Volkman – Mar 18, 2016 at 2:38PM

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The company is trying to find a buyer for Boston Dynamics.

If you want to buy some funky robots, now's probably your chance. Bloomberg is reporting that Alphabet's (GOOG -0.17%) (GOOGL) Google has put its Boston Dynamics robotics division up for sale.


Bloomberg, citing "two people familiar with the company's plans," wrote that Google does not believe the unit has much of a chance to finalize a marketable product within the coming few years. The report named Toyota's Toyota Research Institute and as potential acquirers for the robot maker.

Neither of the two companies has yet commented on the story. Nor has Google.

Boston Dynamics specializes in machines modeled on animals such as dogs. It's also developing humanoid models. It was founded in 1992, and acquired by Google in 2013.

Does it matter?
It almost goes without saying that next-generation robots could strongly impact many aspects of society, not least the business sector. But Boston Dynamics apparently has a long way to go before its mechanical canines end up in stores, so the immediate impact on any potential big acquirer -- like an or Toyota -- will be minimal for quite some time.

As for Alphabet, Boston Dynamics is part of a wider robotics effort, so it's not like the company is getting out of this very-promising segment completely. If the Bloomberg report is accurate, its concerns about commercial viability are pragmatic and sensible; no matter how much potential a technology might hold, it's hard to stay excited if it only drains money.

If anything, Alphabet shareholders will welcome this news. But Boston Dynamics is a speculative enterprise just now, so its apparent upcoming divestment doesn't change the investing thesis on its parent much at all.

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Eric Volkman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), and We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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