Hyundai Motor Group has announced it is buying a majority stake in Boston Dynamics, the maker of the advanced robots seen in all those viral videos that seem to freak everyone out. The Korean-based Hyundai announced the deal today, saying it was acquiring 80% of Massachusetts-based Boston Dynamics from Japan’s SoftBank Group for $1.1 billion.
Hyundai says the deal fits within the company’s vision of its desire to transform “human life by combining world-leading robotics technologies with its mobility expertise.” The firm says its decision to acquire Boston Dynamics was based on the key technologies their robots already possess, including “perception, navigation, and intelligence.”
Currently, Boston Dynamics has one commercial robot, Spot, which is the dog-shaped quadruped robot that the company positions as an intelligent surveillance tool to deploy in potentially dangerous locals such as construction sites and oil and gas fields. Boston Dynamics also positions Spot as the bot you want if you need to inspect potentially hazardous packages from afar.
But Boston Dynamics also makes bipedal robots (check out the video below) that Hyundai now says it hopes can be deployed in the service sector. Hyundai sees these humanoid bots eventually being used in the healthcare sector as helpers for the disabled or caretakers of the elderly, specifically noting that its aim is to develop “humanoid robots for sophisticated services such as caregiving for patients at hospitals.”
Hyundai expects the deal to close by June 2021. Under the deal, Softbank will retain a 20% share in Boston Dynamics through one of its affiliates. Boston Dynamics grew from a team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology back in the early ’90s. Google bought the company in 2013, which lead to a swath of Terminator comparisons, before selling the robotics maker to Softbank in 2017.