Thursday, November 12, 2020

Boston Dynamics, the world's leading robotics company, changes ownership again? Proposed to be sold to Hyundai by SoftBank for $1 billion

 Sun Zhengyi couldn't wait.

At the end of 2017, a video of robots imitating the actions of gymnasts against the sky was popular on the Internet. In the video, a robot jumps on a platform half a meter high, then turns around and somersaults to the ground steadily, comparable to an all-around athlete.

This is the biped robot Atlas of the robot company Boston Dynamics, and the company’s robots that have super-strong motion control and hardware performance levels and become industry benchmarks include the Big Dog, the quadruped robot Spot, and the wheeled robot Handle. .

Six months before the video was released, Boston Dynamics was bought by SoftBank and became an important part of Sun Zhengyi's commercial map. Sun Zhengyi believes that robots, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things will be major technologies that will change the future of mankind. The number of robots in the future society will greatly exceed that of humans. But this time, the far-sighted Sun Zhengyi obviously failed to wait for the robot to become an indispensable part of human life, and intentionally sold it only three years after buying Boston Dynamics.

According to Bloomberg News , SoftBank is negotiating to sell Boston Dynamics to South Korean Hyundai Motor Company. People familiar with the matter said that the transaction value is as high as 1 billion US dollars, but the relevant terms have not been finalized, and there is no guarantee that the transaction will proceed smoothly.

Obviously, this is not the first time Boston Dynamics has been changed hands. In 1992, Marc Raibert, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, founded Boston Dynamics. In 2013, Google's parent company Alphabet acquired the company for $3 billion and sold it in 2017.

Although it has anti-sky technology and every product debut will cause a sensation, commercialization has always been a problem for Boston Dynamics. From the current market situation, wheeled, crawler robots and fixed robots still occupy an absolute position in the market. Boston Dynamics is good at foot robots, which are beautiful and fun but not useful. Although some products have been tried to be applied in the military field, the effect is not satisfactory.

Since the acquisition of Boston Dynamics, SoftBank has been determined to accelerate its commercialization process. It is looking forward to this Internet celebrity robot company to reshape the industry. At present, logistics may be the best way out for Boston Dynamics, but SoftBank has no patience. And this year, affected by the epidemic, SoftBank's financial situation is not well-off. Two months ago, it sold ARM to Nvidia for $40 billion.

Representatives of Boston Dynamics, Hyundai and SoftBank declined to comment on this transaction negotiation. Hyundai Motor said in an e-mail statement, "It is constantly exploring various investment and cooperation opportunities." Boston Dynamics said, "(Our work) can continue to stimulate the interest of partners and allow them to establish deeper business partnerships with the company. ..."

Hyundai is good at manufacturing highly practical industrial robots suitable for factory use. In the past year, Hyundai Motor has shown a strong interest in autonomous driving technology and robotics. In October last year, Hyundai Motor invested US$2 billion to form a joint venture Motional with autonomous driving technology company Aptiv . The goal is to develop L4 or L5 autonomous driving by 2022 .

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