See Spot Run: Softbank Sells Boston Dynamics to Hyundai

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 ($1.4 billion USD) in the industry by 2025.

This deal entrusts Hyundai, the South Korean automaker, with full control of the robotics company in a transaction valued at $921 million, according to The Korea Economic Daily. The robotics company is famous for its viral animal and human shaped androids, serving as a daily not-so-subtle reminder that the human race is doomed. The deal will be finalized today, and Hyundai will finance about half of the purchase price, with the affiliates covering the remainder.

The sale of Boston Dynamics marks yet another faux pas in the flight path of a company that spun out of MIT in the early 1990s. This will be the third time its been sold in 7 years, after being acquired by Google in 2013, then Softbank in 2017. The company has functioned, more or less, like a research syndicate than a business, producing machines that are technologically advanced and cute, but unprofitable. Alas, this includes Spot, the viral dog-like robot sensation you’ve likely scrolled passed on social media.

From left: Boston Dynamics’ original ATLAS, next-generation ATLAS, BigDog, WildCat, and AlphaDog.

Since Chung Euisun was named chairman in 2019, the company has doubled down on robotics, with the company announcing that its robotics sector will account for 20% of its future business (and urban air mobility will account for 30%). Back in 2017, it created the Hyundai Robotics department, but didn’t officially launch it until this year.

Last year Boston Dynamics purchased Kinema Systems, based in Menlo Park, California. Kinema focuses on vision sensors and deep learning to help robots manipulate boxes. It was rebranded as the Boston Dynamics Pick System, and in June of this year Boston Dynamics started seeing Spot run for $74,500 apiece. By contrast, Hyundai makes legitimate, highly practical industrial robots intended for factory use.

BCG suggests that business executives be aware of ways robots are changing the global business landscape and think and act now. They see robotics-fueled changes coming in retail, logistics, transportation healthcare, food processing, mining and agriculture.

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