Boston Dynamics is now officially part of Hyundai Motor Group. The Korean conglomerate has struck a deal with Softbank to acquire a controlling interest — an 80 percent stake — in the robotics company for $1.1 billion. Softbank will retain a 20 percent stake through one of its affiliates. The companies have been in talks since at least early November, and the deal is expected to be finalized in June 2021.
According to their announcement, Hyundai decided to purchase a controlling stake in the robotics firm, because it “possesses multiple key technologies for high-performance robots equipped with perception, navigation, and intelligence.” In addition, Boston Dynamics has offices in Boston and Silicon Valley, which makes it easier to recruit top talents and collaborate with potential partners.
The acquisition gives Hyundai access to a wider range of technologies it can use to expand its logistics robot offerings. While Spot may have a reputation for being a rather terrifying robotic dog, for instance, it also has the capability to perform dull and dangerous tasks in settings not suitable for the more typical types of automated machines. The MIT spinoff also developed a computer vision solution for depalletizing called Pick, which can be used for warehouse machines. Plus, it’s expected to introduce a mobile robot for warehouses next year, as well.
Hyundai plans to expand its offerings by developing humanoid robots for services such as caregiving at hospitals in the future, as well. Boston Dynamics’ experience in developing Atlas, which is agile enough to do complex movements such as handstands and parkour, could help Hyundai achieve that goal. Boston Dynamics CEO Robert Playter said in a statement:
“Boston Dynamics’ commercial business has grown rapidly as we've brought to market the first robot that can automate repetitive and dangerous tasks in workplaces designed for human-level mobility. We and Hyundai share a view of the transformational power of mobility and look forward to working together to accelerate our plans to enable the world with cutting edge automation, and to continue to solve the world’s hardest robotics challenges for our customers.”
The robotics company started as a Massachusetts Institute of Technology spinoff back in 1992. Google acquired it in 2013 under its X research and development arm, which eventually became a separate Alphabet subsidiary. Alphabet then sold it to Japanese conglomerate Softbank in 2017.