THERE COMES A POINT in everyone's life where they realise that the giant bipedal robot fantasy just isn't putting food on the table. That point has come for Google's parent company Alphabet, as it officially shuts down its Schaft robotics unit after failing to find a buyer.
You would have thought that Japanese giants Softbank might be interested, having previously purchased purveyor of giant dog-bots Boston Dynamics from Alphabet. You'd have thought right, but according to Nikkei, "one or more employees" refused to join Softbank, leaving Google with no choice but to shaft Schaft.
"Following Softbank's decision not to move forward with the Schaft acquisition we explored many options but ultimately decided to wind down Schaft," a spokesperson said.
The spokesperson also confirmed that the employees with the cool-sounding robot-related CVs are being helped to find new jobs either within or outside the Googley garden. "We're working with employees to help them find jobs elsewhere within or outside of Alphabet."
It's a sad end for a division that once looked like it had a very bright future. In 2013, Schaft won DARPA's Robotics Challenge with surprisingly graceful moves considering it put forward something that looked somewhere between Evil Edna from Willo the Wisp and Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
You can see what we mean from the video below.
There were even plans to release a consumer-focused product before 2020, according to reports, but it quickly turned out that this was too optimistic a goal. Alphabet's interest in robotics is apparently now focused on non-humanoid robots for industry. Booooring.
Schaft started out life as a small project from Tokyo University researchers, before Google snapped it up in 2013 thanks to the man who was then in charge of company robotics at the time: Andy Rubin. Rubin is now better known for Android, Essential Phone and, uh, other things. µ
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