Ownership odyssey of robotic dog developer Boston Dynamics, once owned by Google, continues as Hyundai acquires majority stake
Hyundai Motor Group has acquired a controlling stake robot maker Boston Dynamics, which was formerly owned by Google.
Hyundai agreed to buy an 80 percent stake in Boston Dynamics from SoftBank, which had acquired the robot maker back in 2017 from Google, for an undisclosed sum.
The move is part of attempts by the South Korean car maker to expand into the automation and design of autonomous cars, drones and robots.
According to the announcement, acquiring the controlling stake in Boston Dynamics, will value the robot maker at $1.1 billion.
Under the agreement, Hyundai Motor Group and its chairman Euisun Chung will hold an approximately 80 percent stake in Boston Dynamics and SoftBank, via one of its affiliates, will retain an approximately 20 percent stake.
Hyundai said that the move will allow it establish “a leading presence in the field of robotics,”, as part of its step “ toward its strategic transformation into a Smart Mobility Solution Provider.”
As part of this, Hyundai has invested substantially in development of future technologies, including in fields such as autonomous driving technology, connectivity, eco-friendly vehicles, smart factories, advanced materials, artificial intelligence (AI), and robots.
“We are delighted to have Boston Dynamics, a world leader in mobile robots, join the Hyundai team,” said Euisun Chung, Hyundai Chairman. “This transaction will unite capabilities of Hyundai Motor Group and Boston Dynamics to spearhead innovation in future mobility.”
“The synergies created by our union offer exciting new pathways for our companies to realise our goal – providing free and safe movement and higher plane of life experiences for humanity,” he added. “We will also contribute to the society by enhancing its safety, security, public health amid global trends of aging society and digital transformation.”
“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,” added Robert Playter, CEO of Boston Dynamics.
“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,” said Playter.
It is fair to say that Boston Dynamics is a veteran of the robotic sector.
Boston Dynamics actually started life back in 1992 as a spinoff from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
It was a military contractor, which was acquired by Google’s parent Alphabet in December 2013 as part of the latters’ robotic strategy.
But three years later in 2016, Alphabet announced it was seeking a buyer for the company, as part of its strategy on extracting revenue streams from its so called “moonshot” projects.
In June 2017, Japanese telecommunications and Internet business Softbank purchased Boston Dynamics for an undisclosed sum.
Then in June this year Boston Dynamics began selling Spot, its robotic dog, nearly five years since it first showed off the four-legged robot to the world – for $74,500 (£59,382).
The agile robot can climb stairs and traverse rough terrain, and was first revealed to the world back in February 2015, when Spot became the public face of the firm, after it build previous models including the BigDog (pictured), AlphaDog and LS3 robots.