Hyundai Motors is acquiring robotics firm Boston Dynamics from its Japanese owner SoftBank Group. According to The Korea Economic Daily, the two companies will finalize the deal, which is said to be worth around 1 trillion won ($921 million), at a board meeting today, December 10th. Hyundai and SoftBank have been in discussions about a potential sale of the robotics firm since at least early last month.
For the uninitiated, Boston Dynamics is the company behind that four-legged, creepy-looking robotic dog Spot (seen above). This machine dog can run, climb stairs, open doors, pull a rickshaw, haul a box truck, herd sheep, and do much more. As we saw earlier this year, it can even help healthcare workers triage patients with COVID-19. Spot went on sale in June 2020 for a whopping $74,500.
Boston Dynamics has also made a humanoid robot named Atlas, as well as a bird-like mobile robot called Handle. The latter is designed for logistics services.
Boston Dynamics sold again
This is the third time Boston Dynamics is changing hands in recent years. Founded in 1992 as a spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Google parent Alphabet acquired the company in December 2013. The Mountain View giant sold the firm to SoftBank Group in June 2017.
Under SoftBank, Boston Dynamics had acquired the Silicon Valley startup Kinema Systems, known for building Kinema Pick – an advanced robotic solution for logistics – in April 2019.
Hyundai itself has been investing heavily in robotics lately. The South Korean automotive manufacturer sees robotics as one of the key next-gen growth engines, alongside electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell cars. The company plans to invest up to 1.5 trillion won ($1.4 billion) in robotics by 2025. It is reportedly looking to make a wheeled robot. So one can see why it is acquiring Boston Dynamis.
Hyundai Motors will reportedly finance about half of the acquisition price (around 400 billion won). The company’s affiliates, including auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis Co., will fund the rest, the Korean publication reports citing sources with knowledge of the matter.
This is Hyundai’s first major purchase since Chung Euisun took over as the company’s chairman in October. During his time as an executive vice-chairman of Hyundai, Chung had set up Hyundai Robotics within the company in 2018. The group has invested in autonomous vehicle startup 42dot and Boston-based robotics processor startup Realtime Robotics.
Chung believes robotics will account for about 20-percent of Hyundai’s overall business in the future. Urban air mobility (UAM) may make up to 30-percent of the business, while automobiles will account for the rest.
Hyundai plans to invest 100 trillion won in future mobility solutions in the coming years. Those include personal air vehicles, robotics, delivery robots, as well as existing engine vehicles.