In a long-awaited transaction, The New York Times Dealbook announced that SoftBank was buying Boston Dynamics from Alphabet (Google). Also included in the deal is the Japanese startup Schaft. Acquisition details were not disclosed. Both Boston Dynamics and Schaft were acquired by Google when Andy Rubin was developing Google's robot group through a series of acquisitions. Both companies have continued to develop innovative mobile robots.
We knew that Masayoshi Son, founder and CEO of telecom giant SoftBank, loved robots. Now the Japanese billionaire is about to significantly expand his collection. Minutes ago, SoftBank announced that it will be acquiring Boston Dynamics and Schaft for an undisclosed sum, in order to "collaborate in advancing the development of smart robotics technologies." Boston Dynamics and Schaft were two of the nine robot companies that Google acquired in 2013 to form the core of its robotics division, headed by Android founder Andy Rubin. As far as anyone could tell, not much happened after all those companies became part of Google, and not much continued to happen through 2016, much to the frustration of roboticists everywhere.
Google's parent company Alphabet has sold robotics firm Boston Dynamics to Japan's Softbank for an undisclosed sum, over a year after putting it up for sale. As part of the deal, Softbank also purchased Schaft, a lesser known Alphabet robotics subsidiary. Within a year of the acquisition, however, Rubin had quit Google to start smartphone company Essential, leading Replicant leaderless and rudderless and Boston Dynamics with little pressure to integrate with its new corporate parent. It is not clear, yet, whether the acquisition will see Boston Dynamics incorporated into Softbank itself, or left largely independent as part of Vision Fund, the company's $93bn technology investment fund, as Bloomberg News suggests.
Looking a little like an under-dressed R2-D2, the bipedal robot was unveiled by Schaft - owned by Google's parent company Alphabet - at the recent New Economic Summit in Tokyo. Alphabet-owned Japanese robotics firm Schaft unveiled its new two-legged robot in Tokyo on Friday. A video at the conference demonstrated the robot's capabilities (still pictured) Mimicking the complex movements involved in human motion has long-been a challenge for bipedal robotics experts, owing to the countless minor adjustments we make as we walk. The robot can also be seen ascending and descending sets of stairs without assistance. The bipedal prototype (pictured) can reportedly carry 60kg (132 lb) of weight, and is'aimed at helping society by helping to carry heavy loads The unnamed robot can self-stabilise on uneven surfaces, as demonstrated by stepping on a pole in a video.
It's been over a year since we heard that Google's parent company Alphabet wanted to sell its robotics company Boston Dynamics, and now it has a buyer: Softbank. The Japanese company has been working on its own robots for years, including the helpful Pepper, and now they'll be under the same umbrella as Handle, Big Dog, Atlas, WildCat and all the rest. Google acquired the MIT spin-off in 2013, when Andy Rubin was still still leading its robotics efforts instead of building his own phone. Along with Japan's SCHAFT (which dominated the 2013 DARPA challenge and is also being acquired by Softbank), it became a part of the reorganized X division under Alphabet, but clearly fell out of the company's long-term plans. The terms of the deal have not been revealed, however Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son said in a statement that "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.