Alphabet is the holding company for search giant Google, and under the Alphabet umbrella, a company called Schaft has been developing bipedal robots for years now. Way back in 2013, Schaft won a DARPA Robotics Challenge Trial with its bipedal robots. Things went off the trials a bit for the company when its director, Andy Rubin, left and went on to found Essential.
Alphabet is expected to dissolve the program that is developing the bipedal robots later this year and try to relocate the employees to other departments within Alphabet or help them find jobs with other companies altogether. Alphabet reportedly tried to sell Schaft to SoftBank Group in 2017, but one or more workers at Schaft refused to be part of SoftBank, and the deal fell apart.
With SoftBank walking away, the decision ended up being to kill off Schaft altogether. The goal behind the bipedal robots that were in development was to help save lives in a disaster. Robots that walk on two legs are more appropriate for using tools made for humans than quadruped robots that move like dogs.
Schaft and Google initially tied up after Schaft was unable to find funding in Japan to continue its operations early on. While Alphabet never reported specifically on financial details of Schaft, it did lump the company in with other miscellaneous companies it ran in an “Other Bets” category.
That specific category posted an operating loss of $727 million despite having seen sales for the segment as a whole climb 25% compared to last year. Bipedal robots as a money-making business have yet to catch on in a meaningful way for any company.