Hyundai is acquiring lifelike robotics pioneer Boston Dynamics

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Hyundai is acquiring Boston Dynamics, a pioneering robotics creator behind the infamous robotic dog ‘Spot’.

Spot went viral for being eerily close to being able to mimic the movements of a real dog. People were quick to note the similarities between Spot and the fictional unstoppable killer robots which appear in an episode of Charlie Brooker’s dystopian TV show Black Mirror.

Boston Dynamics is famous for Spot but is also behind a range of pioneering robots. Atlas, for example, is a humanoid robot that already has more agility than many of us:

Hyundai’s acquisition of Boston Dynamics shows the company sees the considerable growth potential for robots in the years to come and a growing desire to diversify from its core automotive business.

Venkata Naveen, Senior Disruptive Tech Analyst at GlobalData, says:

“Hyundai’s move to acquire a major stake in Boston Dynamics polarises with many automakers competing to add their name to the me-too stack of autonomous carmakers by purchasing self-driving tech startups.

Moreover, the strategic location of Boston Dynamics in Silicon Valley gives an advantage to Hyundai to collaborate with tech startups as well as pool the right talent.”

Hyundai is acquiring Boston Dynamics for around $880 million.

Euisun Chung, Chairman of Hyundai Motor Group, comments:

“We are delighted to have Boston Dynamics, a world leader in mobile robots, join the Hyundai team. 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.

We will also contribute to society by enhancing its safety, security, and public health amid global trends of an ageing society and digital transformation.”

Boston Dynamics was formerly owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet before it was sold to SoftBank three years ago in a deal valued at $1.1 billion. SoftBank will retain a one-fifth stake in Boston Dynamics after Hyundai’s acquisition.

Masayoshi Son, Chairman & CEO of SoftBank Group, said: “Boston Dynamics is at the heart of smart robotics. We are thrilled to partner with Hyundai, one of the world’s leading global mobility companies, to accelerate the company’s path to commercialisation. Boston Dynamics has a very bright future and we remain invested in the company’s success.”

SoftBank has been transparent about $74,500 robot dogs not being exactly big sellers right now. However, the robot dog is finding some unique use cases such as helping to create a 3D map of nuclear radiation distribution around Chernobyl.

Robert Playter, CEO of Boston Dynamics, commented:

“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.”

Playter recently said that he projects 2023-24 will be when Boston Dynamics is “cash positive”.

By retaining a stake, it’s clear that SoftBank believes Hyundai has the potential to make a success of Boston Dynamics in the years to come.

“Integrating Boston Dynamics’ robotic technologies with the automotive expertise can strengthen Hyundai’s position in smart mobility, especially in areas such as robotaxis, personal air vehicles, and last-mile mobility,” Naveen concludes.

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