Google's parent company Alphabet has sold two of its robotics subsidiaries, Boston Dynamics and Schaft, to Japanese telecommunications giant SoftBank. The size of the deal is not yet known but it is believed to be in the region of $100m.
Boston Dynamics began as a spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was acquired by Google in 2013. The company has developed a number of robots that run and maneuver like animals, such as the WildCat, Big Dog and Cheetah. Originally designed for military use, the company has posted several YouTube videos demonstrating the robots’ capabilities.
"Today, there are many issues we still cannot solve by ourselves with human capabilities," SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son said in a statement. "Smart robotics are going to be a key driver of the next stage of the Information Revolution, and Marc and his team at Boston Dynamics are the clear technology leaders in advanced dynamic robots. I am thrilled to welcome them to the SoftBank family and look forward to supporting them as they continue to advance the field of robotics and explore applications that can help make life easier, safer and more fulfilling."
This will be SoftBank’s second venture into robotics. In 2012, SoftBank acquired French company Aldebaran Robotics SA and later unveiled their humanoid robot Pepper. Pepper is the first humanoid robot capable of recognising the principal human emotions. To date, more than 140 SoftBank Mobile stores in Japan are using Pepper as a new way of welcoming customers.
The global demand of robots has accelerated extensively due to the ongoing trend toward automation and the continued innovative technical advancements in industrial robotics as well as service robotics. According to a recent market research report, the Global Robotics Market will be worth around US$ 45 billion by the end of 2020.
Marc Raibert, CEO and founder of Boston Dynamics, said, “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. 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.”
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