Boston Dynamics, the MIT spin-off and self-proclaimed maker of “nightmare-inducing robots“, has been sold by its parent company Alphabet (aka Google) to the Japanese tech behemoth SoftBank. No specifics regarding the price or the terms of the sale have been announced which is not surprising given we still don’t know how much Google paid for the company when it purchased it four years ago.
While Boston Dynamics has been around since 1992, but they didn’t start making headlines until 2005 when they introduced BigDog, a robot pack mule for the military developed in conjunction with JPL and Darpa. Even though BigDog development was discontinued in 2015, Boston Dynamics have continued to innovate with other bio-inspired robots like Spot, a cheetah-dog hybrid, Atlas, probably the world’s most advanced humanoid robot, and Handle, the unholy bastard child of a pony and a Segway.
Google purchased Boston Dynamics as well as seven other robotics companies in 2013 as part of their broader effort to gain a foothold in the robot market. These acquisitions along with the hiring of many preeminent roboticists was initially spearheaded by Andy Rubin, the co-founder of Google’s Android mobile unit, who tweeted at the time:
But just a year later, Rubin decided his awesome future was not at Google but at his own company incubating tech startups, and he left the search giant. With no marketable consumer robots in the foreseeable future, Google started looking for a buyer for Boston Dynamics in 2016.
Enter SoftBank Group Corporation, or just SoftBank for short, a Japanese multinational telecommunications and internet company, headed by billionaire CEO and founder, Masayoshi Son, whose current vision for the company includes branching into artificial intelligence and robotics. In addition Boston Dynamics, the deal also includes Schaft, one of the other seven firms Google assimilated during their 2013 buying spree.
“I am thrilled to welcome them to the SoftBank family and look forward to supporting them as they continue to advance the field of robotics and explore applications that can help make life easier, safer and more fulfilling,” Son said of Boston Dynamics and Schaft.
It will be interesting to see how this purchase affects Boston Dynamics given the tight relationship it has traditionally had with the US military. Regardless, I am quite certain that Boston Dynamics will continue to innovate, pushing past the boundaries of robotics and occasionally onto the center stage of my nightmares.