It is official. Boston Dynamics becomes part of the Hyundai family (subject of course to regulatory approval). The robot manufacturer, based in Waltham, Massachusetts, has confirmed that the South Korean tech company is today acquiring a controlling interest in a press release. The deal, which values the company at $ 1.1 billion, gives Hyundai Motor Group an 80% stake, while SoftBank controls the remaining 20%.
The transaction marks the third change of ownership for the spot manufacturer in just seven years. After nearly a quarter of a century as a research company (with huge financial support from organizations like DARPA), it was sold to Google in 2013 and became part of a new robotics wing under the leadership of then CEO Andy Rubin.
After Google X Robotics was largely dissolved, Boston Dynamics changed hands in 2017 and became a subsidiary of Japanese investment giant Softbank. It was an odd fit for the company, and a rough year for Softbank likely didn't help. At least Hyundai is a more logical home for the company after being owned by a company whose most famous robot is Pepper, the bot of humanoid hospitality.
As we noted when reporting previous rumors about the acquisition, Hyundai has made some big investments in this category. The list includes a recently completed joint venture with Aptiv to commercialize autonomous driving systems. There is also the recently announced Ultimate Mobility Vehicle, or UMV – a borderline sci-fi vehicle with legs.
"Boston Dynamics' commercial business has grown rapidly as we launched the first robot that can automate repetitive and dangerous tasks in workplaces designed for human-scale mobility," said CEO Rob Playter in a with press release related to the deal. "We and Hyundai share a look at the transformative power of mobility and look forward to working together to accelerate our plans to bring cutting-edge automation to the world and continue to solve the world's toughest robotics challenges for our customers."
Of course, Boston Dynamics has been blurring the lines between science fiction and reality for several decades. More recently, however, it has shown a much greater interest in commercializing its advanced technologies. Under Softbank, the company launched Spot, a four-legged friend that draws on years of robot innovation, including the legendary Big Dog.
Spot went on sale in limited quantities last year. It's now available to anyone in the U.S. with $ 74,500 in their pocket. The company is also pushing to commercialize its wheeled gripping robot for storage and fulfillment purposes. This robot is going to fail sometime next year. While the sophistication and resulting price tags for the company's robots have caused a little skepticism, investors have shown increased interest in robots and automation companies after years of shutdowns related to COVID-19.
"The Hyundai Motor Group will provide Boston Dynamics as a strategic partner, which provides access to the internal manufacturing capacities and cost advantages of the Hyundai Motor Group, which result from economies of scale," said the press release. "Boston Dynamics will benefit significantly from the new capital, new technology, connected customers and global market reach of Hyundai Motor Group, which enhances the commercialization opportunities for its robotic products."
The deal is expected to close in June.