Hyundai Motor will acquire Boston Dynamics. The acquisition will be finalized at Hyundai’s December 10 board meeting. News about the deal was first reported by The Korea Economic Daily, which said the deal is for $921 million (1 trillion won). The Robot Report has also confirmed the news with a source familiar with the deal. The source said the acquisition is for about $1 billion.
The Robot Report has reached out to Boston Dynamics but has yet to hear back. We will provide updates as more information becomes available.
Robotics has become a bigger focus for Hyundai since Chung Euisun was named chairman in October. The company has since said robotics will account for 20% of its future business. Hyundai Robotics was founded in 2017, but it officially launched earlier in 2020. The company’s automotive team invested in autonomous vehicle startup 42dot and Realtime Robotics in 2019. Hyundai has also created a $4 billion autonomous vehicle joint venture with Aptiv.
It is not yet clear how Boston Dynamics will fit into Hyundai, which becomes the third owner of Boston Dynamics in seven years. It was acquired by Google in 2013 and sold to Softbank in 2017. The RBR50 company 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.
In April 2019, Boston Dynamics acquired Kinema Systems, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based startup that uses vision sensors and deep learning to help robots manipulate boxes. Kinema’s Pick system was rebranded as the Boston Dynamics Pick System. It was the company’s first commercialized product.
In June 2020, it commercialized its Spot quadruped robot, initially selling it to U.S.-based customers for $74,500. Sales have since been opened to other parts of the world, and Spot has been used for a number of interesting applications, including radiation monitoring at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. It has reportedly already sold 400-plus robots and generated $30 million-plus in revenue.
In early November, Bloomberg first reported that Hyundai was in talks to acquire Boston Dynamics from Tokyo-based SoftBank. The Japanese conglomerate is selling off non-core business assets after it was hit hard by a series of soured bets, including WeWork and Uber. In September 2020, Softbank sold Arm to NVIDIA for $40 billion.
Softbank has also been going through leadership changes. Sources have told The Robot Report several champions of the Boston Dynamics acquisition are no longer at Softbank.
SoftBank is also a holding company for SoftBank Robotics, which produces the Pepper humanoid (formerly from Aldebaran Robotics) and the Whiz commercial floor-cleaning robot.
Michael Perry, vice president of business development at Boston Dynamics, recently joined The Robot Report Podcast to discuss the commercial launch of Spot and its most unique applications. You can listen to that conversation below.