In a long-awaited transaction, The New York Times Dealbook announced that SoftBank was buying Boston Dynamics from Alphabet (Google). Also included in the deal is the Japanese startup Schaft. Acquisition details were not disclosed.
Both Boston Dynamics and Schaft were acquired by Google when Andy Rubin was developing Google's robot group through a series of acquisitions. Both companies have continued to develop innovative mobile robots. And both have been on Google's for sale list.
Boston Dynamics, a DARPA and DoD-funded 25 year old company, designed two and four-legged robots for the military. Videos of BD’s robots WildCat, Big Dog, Cheetah, SpotMini (shown above getting into an elevator) and Handle, have been YouTube hits for years. Handle, BD's most recent, is a two-wheeled, four-legged hybrid robot that can stand, walk, hop, run and roll at up to 9 MPH.
Schaft, a Japanese startup/participant in the DARPA Robotic Challenge, recently unveiled a two-legged robot that climbed stairs, can carry 125 pounds of payload, move in tight spaces and keep its balance throughout.
SoftBank, through another acquisition (of French Aldabaran, the maker of the Nao and Romeo robots), and in a joint venture with Foxconn and Alibaba, has developed and marketed thousands of Pepper robots. Pepper is a cute, humanoid, mobile robot being marketed and used as a guide and sales assistant. The addition of Boston Dynamics and Schaft to the SoftBank stable add talent and technology to their growing robotics efforts, particularly the Tokyo-based Schaft.
“Today, there are many issues we still cannot solve by ourselves with human capabilities. Smart robotics are going to be a key driver of the next stage of the information revolution,” said Masayoshi Son, chairman and chief executive of SoftBank.