What just happened? University of Tokyo robotics startup Schaft, which was picked up by Google in 2013, will close its doors. It was supposed to be purchased by Softbank as part of the Boston Dynamics buyout, but internal conflicts resulted in the deal falling through. Alphabet could not find another buyer, so it has no choice by to close shop.
Google’s parent company, Alphabet is shuttering its Schaft robotics unit. Tokyo-based Softbank had been expected to acquire the division after finalizing a deal to purchase Boston Dynamics from the mega-conglomerate. However, Nikkei reports it appears the Schaft part of the takeover fell through due to “one or more [Schaft] employees” refusing to work under Softbank.
Alphabet was unable to find another buyer, so was forced to shut down the robotics subsidiary. Google told TechCrunch that it is trying to help Schaft staff members find new jobs. Most likely these will be positions outside the Alphabet umbrella though.
Schaft was founded by researchers at the University of Tokyo. The startup specialized in creating bipedal robots. Google acquired the company in 2013 with the intention of marketing humanoid robots to be used as first responders in emergency and rescue scenarios.
The division was lead by Android creator Andy Rubin, who was heading up the company’s robotics research. Rubin recently resigned over allegations of sexual misconduct, which may have accellerated Schaft's demise.
Google moved both Boston Dynamics and Schaft to Alphabet X, the company’s experimental division, in 2016. Less than a year later, Boston Dynamics was sold to Softbank for an undisclosed sum — Schaft was supposed to be part of that deal. When that part of the acquisition fell through, Google continued looking for a buyer, but to no avail. Now it will be liquidated.
Schaft had been working on the S-One biped and was planning to go commercial with it. It is unclear what will happen with that research now, but it will likely be sold with the rest of the company’s assets.