Boston Dynamics is sold to Hyundai Motor Group in a $1.1 billion deal | GeekComparison

Fresh off selling ARM to Nvidia for $40 billion, Softbank is once again divesting itself of a flashy company. This time it sells Boston Dynamics, the state-of-the-art robotics company, to Hyundai Motor Group. Hyundai acquires an 80 percent stake in Boston Dynamics in a deal that values ​​the company at $1.1 billion. Softbank retains a 20 percent stake.

Boston Dynamics was spun off from MIT as a private company in 1992 and survived on military contracts for a long time. The company rose to fame by sharing its work on its YouTube channel, where the better-than-sci-fi robot footage would reliably go viral. Google bought Boston Dynamics in 2013 with a plan to build a robotics division, but as Google is used to doing, it lost interest in robotics and decided to sell the company to Softbank in 2017. Softbank had an even shorter fling with Boston Dynamics than Google, and it was forced to sell the company after its investments in Uber, WeWork and now-defunct satellite broadband provider OneWeb tanked. Hopefully, this sale means Boson Dynamics has finally found a stable home.

Hyundai Motor Group is the second largest Korean conglomerate after Samsung and the third largest automaker in the world. Hyundai Motor Group owns the Hyundai Motor Company-the company that actually makes Hyundai-branded cars, along with Kia Motors, the Hyundai Engineering & Construction Company, and a few Hyundai-branded auto parts companies. So what does a car company want with a robotics company? The press release from the Hyundai Motor Group calls the technologies of the two companies “highly complementary” and Hyundai wants to “propel the development and commercialization of advanced robots”.

“By establishing a leadership position in robotics, the acquisition will represent another important step for Hyundai Motor Group in its strategic transformation into a Smart Mobility Solution Provider,” said Hyundai Motor Group. “To drive forward this transformation, Hyundai Motor Group has invested substantially in the development of future technologies, including in areas such as autonomous driving technology, connectivity, eco-friendly vehicles, smart factories, advanced materials, artificial intelligence (AI) and robots. “

This is not the first time Hyundai Motor Group has become involved in robotics. Hyundai’s Robotics Lab has demonstrated a range of exoskeletons, such as H-MEX, the Hyundai Medical EXoskeleton, and the “medical” version is designed to help paraplegics walk again, while other variants are designed for heavy lifting. Note that “Robotics Lab of Hyundai” is a different group from Hyundai Robotics, which is owned by Hyundai Heavy Industries, a shipbuilding company separate from Hyundai Motor Group (they share a founder).

Perhaps the most exciting line in the press release is that Hyundai Motor Group will provide “Boston Dynamics with a strategic partner that will provide access to Hyundai Motor Group’s in-house manufacturing capabilities and cost benefits resulting from economies of scale.” If we’re ever going to have home robots that do the dishes or whatever, they’re going to have to get a lot cheaper, and partnering with one of the world’s largest automakers sounds like a great way to do that.

The road to profitability

The latest Atlas video.

When Boston Dynamics was bought by Google in 2013, it ceased military operations and had no revenue at all (perhaps you could say the company became a full-time YouTuber?). That all changed six months ago, when Boston started selling Dynamics Spot, a robotic quadruped, to the public for $74,500.

A recent report from Bloomberg gives us a better picture of Boston Dynamics’ financial situation. The report says about 400 Spot robots were sold, “bringing in at least $30 million in revenue.” That’s still not enough to cover the cost of running the company, which costs “more than $150 million a year” according to Bloomberg Softbank, but keep in mind that Spot is only on sale for six months. So how much is a state-of-the-art, money-losing robotics research company worth? It depends who you ask. According to the Bloomberg report, SoftBank bought Boston Dynamics from Google for $165 million in 2017, then turned around and sold the company to Hyundai in a deal worth more than six times that value just three years later.

In terms of practical commercial use, Spot today is little more than a highly mobile camera, used as a quieter, more people-friendly replacement for camera drones in places that require remote surveillance. However, Boston Dynamics is working on adding more capabilities to its robot dog, in the form of an attachable arm due out early next year that will allow the robot to manipulate objects and perform tasks. The company also sells the “Pick” vision system for robot arms and is working to move further into the warehouse with the development of a depalletizing mechanical ostrich robot called “Handle”. Also currently in development is the very impressive humanoid robot Atlas (it can do a backflip!) although Boston Dynamics says Atlas is “a research platform”. Every other robot you’ve heard of from the company, such as WildCat and all military pack mules, have been retired.

It doesn’t sound like Boston Hyundynamics is going to get boring any time soon. The press release also states, “Hyundai Motor Group plans to expand its presence in the humanoid robot market over time with the aim of developing humanoid robots for advanced services such as patient care in hospitals.” Please don’t close the YouTube channel.

Frame image by Boston Dynamics

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