Hyundai Motors is acquiring Boston Dynamics, according to The Korea Economic Daily. The publication says Softbank has agreed to sell the robot maker for 1 trillion won (US$917 million) and that the acquisition will be finalized at a board meeting today, December 10th. The companies have been discussing a sale since at least early November, based on a previous report by Bloomberg.
Boston Dynamics is known for its nightmare-inducing (or oddly adorable, depending on your perspective) robotic dog Spot, which it started selling in mid—2020 for $75,000. The four-legged robot can climb stairs, herd sheep and pull a rickshaw. Earlier this year, the machine also helped healthcare providers remotely triage patients suspected to have COVID-19 at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The company is also behind the humanoid robot Atlas that’s agile enough to do handstands and parkour.
Boston Dynamics is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology spinoff first acquired by Google in 2013. In 2017, Google’s parent company Alphabet sold it to Softbank, which had a “vision of catalyzing the next wave of smart robotics.” Hyundai Motor has been investing heavily in robotics over the past couple of years and vowed to invest up to 1.5 trillion won (US$1.4 billion) in the industry by 2025. It has mostly focused on manufacturing wheeled robots for factory use, though, instead designing machines as interesting as Spot and Atlas. KED says Hyundai Motor will shoulder about 400 billion won, while its affiliates, including auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis Co. will pay the rest of the acquisition price.