Hyundai has bought a controlling stake in Boston Dynamics in a deal that values the robotics company at nearly $1.5 billion.
The South Korean car manufacturer will own around 80 per cent of Boston Dynamics which has achieved viral fame for videos featuring its bipedal robot Atlas that show off its eerily impressive mobility.
Earlier this year the company began commercialising its research with the $110,000 robotic quadruped named Spot.
Boston Dynamics CEO Robert Playter expects his company to be a good fit in Hyundai.
“We and Hyundai share a view of the transformational power of mobility and look forward to working together to accelerate our plans to enable the world with cutting edge automation, and to continue to solve the world’s hardest robotics challenges for our customers,” he said in a statement.
Despite its popular videos that echo fears of a robotic uprising, Boston Dynamics has struggled to turn a profit, much to the chagrin of its previous owners Alphabet/Google and Japanese conglomerate Softbank.
According to a report from Bloomberg last month, Boston Dynamics hemorrhaged its previous owners’ cash, costing Google and Softbank an estimated $60 million and $200 million respectively each year.
Though it managed to reportedly sell a few hundred of its pricey four-legged robots, the ongoing cost has clearly become too much for Softbank.
A massive technology investor, Softbank has had a shocking year. Its investment in co-working company WeWork flopped after the firm’s disastrous IPO attempt which saw WeWork’s CEO try to sue SoftBank for failing to provide a multi-billion dollar rescue package.
During the pandemic, Softbank tried to flip cash through short term bets on tech stocks in a strategy that has cost it nearly $5 billion through failed derivatives trades.
It also sold off UK chip designer Arm Holdings to NVIDIA for $55 billion.
Hyundai’s robotic future
Hyundai will be hoping for better luck from Boston Dynamics than its predecessor.
One of the world’s largest car manufacturers, Hyundai will try complement its existing five-year transition toward ‘smart mobility’ with Boston Dynamics.
“This transaction will unite capabilities of Hyundai Motor Group and Boston Dynamics to spearhead innovation in future mobility,” Chairman of Hyundai Motor Group, Euisun Chung said in a statement.
“The synergies created by our union offer exciting new pathways for our companies to realise our goal – providing free and safe movement and higher plane of life experiences for humanity.”
Exactly what Hyundai’s plans are for Boston Dynamics remain unclear, but it has previously shown interest in furthering the field of robotics – perhaps most notably through its bipedal robot ASIMO.
Development of ASIMO was stopped in 2018 with Hyundai looking to adopt technologies from the robot into concepts for commercial operations such as the Hyundai Medical Exoskeleton (H-MEX).