Hyundai Motor has agreed to purchase American robotic company Boston Dynamics from SoftBank Group for slightly less than 1 trillion won ($921 million), The Korea Economic Daily reports. The acquisition will be finalized at a board meeting today, December 10th.
Although it is not clear at the moment what the real intentions of the Korean group may be, the move seems to be aimed at increasing the company’s appearance in the field of robotics to open new opportunities for development in the near future.
Boston Dynamics is regularly in the news, with eye-catching and advanced robots such as Atlas humanoid robot and Spot robot dog, which it started selling in mid-2020 for $75,000. The company, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology spinoff, was founded in 1992. It was then first acquired by Google in 2013, and in 2017, the robot maker was sold to Japanese tech giant SoftBank.
The four-legged robot, Spot, can climb stairs, herd sheep, pull a rickshaw, and patrol oil rig. Earlier this year, the machine also helped healthcare providers remotely measure vital signs of suspected COVID-19 patients – without doctor-to-patient contact – at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Whereas the humanoid robot Atlas is agile enough to do handstands and parkour.
In recent years, Hyundai Motor has shown interest in automated vehicle technology. It plans to invest up to 1.5 trillion won (US$1.4 billion) in robotics by 2025. The companies have been discussing a sale since at least early November, according to the previous report by Bloomberg.
The key to the new acquisition is all in the buyer’s name: if Hyundai has signed the check, it means that it needs the intellectual property held there or has clear ideas in mind on how to turn the Boston Dynamics quadrupeds into attractive tools on the market. And this will only be clear in a few months when the real intentions behind this important operation are understood.