Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has found a new home for Boston Dynamics. The walking-robot lab was deemed not marketable enough to be useful to Alphabet, and companies including Toyota were rumored to be in the running to purchase it. Now, Japanese tech maker SoftBank has acquired both Boston Dynamics and Schaft, SoftBank announced June 9.
The switch leads to a lot of speculation about the future of Boston Dynamic’s bots, the YouTube hits deemed impractical for the military.
Schaft, a hush-hush startup that seems to be dedicated to bipedal robots, was founded in 2012.
Boston Dynamics was purchased by Google in 2013. Using technology developed for DARPA, the company created several breeds of robotic “pack mules” meant to quickly and quietly carry cargo that would otherwise weigh down soldiers. However, in 2015 the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab declared robots such as the Big Dog project to be too loud and not autonomous enough for field work.
So what does SoftBank want to do with them?
“Today, there are many issues we still cannot solve by ourselves with human capabilities,” said Masayoshi Son, Chairman and CEO of SoftBank Group Corp. “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. I am thrilled to welcome them to the SoftBank family and look forward to supporting them as they continue to advance the field of robotics and explore applications that can help make life easier, safer, and more fulfilling.”
TechCrunch notes that SoftBank has been acquiring other tech companies over the past year, while Alphabet may want to divest itself of projects that range too far afield. SoftBank makes its own robot, Pepper, a home or business assistant which can react to human moods.
“We at Boston Dynamics are excited to be part of SoftBank’s bold vision and its position creating the next technology revolution, and we share SoftBank’s belief that advances in technology should be for the benefit of humanity,” said Marc Raibert, CEO and founder of Boston Dynamics. “We look forward to working with SoftBank in our mission to push the boundaries of what advanced robots can do and to create useful applications in a smarter and more connected world.”Discover More