We've seen Boston Dynamics' four-legged robotic dog Spot help triage patients with COVID-19, pull a rickshaw, hold the door for a fellow bot, haul a box truck, herd sheep and more. Until now, Spot was only available as a short-term lease under Boston Dynamics' Early Adopter Program, but that is changing. Businesses in the United States can now buy their very own Spot robots. Spot is meant for commercial and industrial use, and orders are subject to Boston Dynamics' terms, which require "beneficial use" of the robots. That may quell some fears about a robot takeover.
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, as a culture, can't seem to decide whether we love or hate robots. On the one hand, they can be cute and friendly (The Iron Giant, Wall-E, Baymax from Big Hero 6) but on the other, they're depicted as completely terrifying and powerful and out to end the humans (The Terminator, the Decepticons from Transformers, Ultron from The Avengers). But the good news for anybody terrified of the robots we see in pop culture is that all of the robots in those movies are works of fiction. We're a long way off those mechanical beings become a reality. Enter robotics lab Boston Dynamics.
In recent news, Boston Dynamics was sold by Softbank to Hyundai at a valuation of $1.1 billion with the latter acquiring 80% stake in the company. Pioneered in developing mobile robots, Boston Dynamics produces some of the most agile and intelligent service and logistics robots. It became famous with its signature product SPOT, which could navigate terrains with unprecedented mobility, allowing it to automate some of the toughest robotics challenges. The company was founded by an MIT professor in 1992. Initially, it was sold to Google at $500 million in 2013, however later to be bought by SoftBank in 2017 for an undisclosed price. While the company was not profitable, it recently gained fame because of its robotic designs.
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