Boston Dynamics: From Google to Softbank

  • Robotics firm Boston Dynamics was sold by Google in a quiet deal with minimal fuss.
  • Boston Dynamics is set to regain its crown as the leader in robotics and artificial intelligence after a difficult period under the Google umbrella.
  • Robotics and artificial intelligence are now part of everyday life even if many people are unaware of this.
  • Merging the robotic and artificial intelligence subsidiary of Softbank with Boston Dynamics has created an enlarged business which is set to literally take on the world.

While R&D divisions often provide the most exciting news, several don’t survive a purge or a pivot in their missions. Once the big engineering programs are over or the technology no longer matches the parent company’s newest strategic plan it can be good night and god bless. It turns out that the latter is the case for Boston Dynamics: it is official, Boston Dynamics has been sold by Google and is now part of the Robotics division of Softbank.

Boston Dynamics flies the Google nest

Google is aware of BD’s amazing technology and the company proves it with its latest addition, Handle (see video below). It combines both the efficiency of legs and wheels in an eye catching demonstration of movement and balance – there must be many potential uses for Handle technology . If you take a look at the video you will see it is less complex and cumbersome than you might think – perfect!

The impressive stability it shows while going down the stairs, jumping and switching accelerations proves the potential of the company as well as its growth rate. Yet, after a change of management, and a review of Boston Dynamics future within the group, Google ended up selling the company to SoftBank, a Japanese mogul dealing with energy, telecommunications, internet and robots. The sale was done very quietly with minimal fuss – to avoid highlighting a rare Google fail?

A great move for Boston Dynamics

The takeover is likely to be an excellent opportunity for Boston Dynamics to evolve, monetize its work and learn to fly free again. Softbank’s CEO is known for his passion for robotics and the company has a history of investing heavily in this area. While many may be familiar with Honda’s walking robot ASIMO, it is Pepper of Softbank that is present in Japanese households and considered the first of its kind in providing companionship. Pepper has recently come to the American markets and the excitement and array of potential applications is there for all to see. However, what about the potential upgrades Boston Dynamics can provide to the AI driver – a merge of SoftBank and BD’s technology is very exciting and opens up a whole array of new potential applications.

softbank

Widening the company’s appeal

First, Boston Dynamics will shed the military label and exclusivity that is attached to its robots and their potential applications. It will also benefit from SoftBank’s present market and monetizable robots niche. Moreover, merging Pepper with Atlas and/or Handle will result in an AI machine with sturdy but flexible legs and strong arms that can do more than just hug. The Japanese firm is well aware of the untapped potential and its own tools to advance it.

In that respect, Masayoshi Son, Chairman & CEO of SoftBank Group Corp., said, “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, and Marc and his team at Boston Dynamics are the clear technology leaders in advanced dynamic robots. 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.”

Limited deal information available

No numbers or valuation for Boston Dynamics have been provided so far  but it has been disclosed that a condition of the deal saw SoftBank also acquire Schaft along with Boston Dynamics. This secretive company was founded in the university of Tokyo and works on biped robots, away from the public scene. The SoftBank robotics division has certainly been strengthened and there are high hopes that robotic company Schaft, along with Boston Dynamics, will prosper in the more accommodating environment.

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