Listen to this article
It’s officially official. Hyundai Motor Group (Hyundai) announced this morning it completed its acquisition of a controlling stake in Boston Dynamics. Hyundai now owns an 80% stake in Boston Dynamics, while SoftBank owns the remaining 20% through one of its affiliates.
The deal was announced in December 2020. Hyundai paid about $880 million to acquire the controlling stake from Softbank, valuing Boston Dynamics at $1.1 billion.
Hyundai is the third owner of Boston Dynamics in seven years. It was acquired by Google in 2013 and sold to Softbank Group in 2017. It has mainly operated as an R&D organization since it was founded, but a new emphasis on commercialization was evident after it was acquired by Softbank.
Hyundai released a video this morning about the acquisition. The video doesn’t really reveal much, but it showcases the Spot quadruped acting as a guide dog and the Atlas humanoid dancing alongside a child. Hyundai’s Ernestine Fu recently said Boston Dynamics’ technology could help bring to life Hyundai’s walking car concept.
“In the field of robotics, [Hyundai] aims to develop advanced technologies that enhance people’s lives and promote safety, thereby realizing progress for humanity. The deal is also expected to allow [Hyundai] and Boston Dynamics to leverage each other’s respective strengths in manufacturing, logistics, construction and automation,” Hyundai said in a statement this morning. “Together, [Hyundai] and Boston Dynamics will create a robotics value chain, from robot component manufacturing to smart logistics solutions. Additionally, [Hyundai] will support Boston Dynamics’ continued expansion of its product line and global sales and service footprint.”
Boston Dynamics’ first commercial robot, Spot, launched in June 2020. There are hundreds of Spots operating in the world now, and the company recently introduced Spot Arm, a robotic arm that turns Spot into a mobile manipulation platform.
The RBR50 company also recently revealed Stretch, a mobile manipulator designed to move boxes out of trucks and around warehouses. When it goes on sale in 2022, for a yet to be named price, Stretch will initially focus on truck unloading and later add palletizing to its repertoire. Stretch is currently being tested by a few partners.
When Boston Dynamics unveiled Stretch, VP of engineering Kevin Blankespoor said the company is “going hard into the warehouse space.”
“Well, we’ve definitely had interest in the warehouse space since Atlas. That’s when we figured out what a big market this is, and how much potential there is for mobile robots in the warehouse space.” He added, “we have a warehouse robotics team that is growing rapidly, which I’m heading up. And that includes development of the Stretch robot, we have our Pick vision system, we have a fleet management software system that can pull together different robots into doing coordinated activities.”
It’s still not clear exactly what the future holds for Hyundai and Boston Dynamics. There are many ways in which the relationship could be mutually beneficial. And the journey has now officially begun.