While details of the agreement were not disclosed, the move is said to align with Softbank’s other technology investments. The company recently bought semiconductor IP firm ARM Holdings (Cambridge, UK) and is a backer of the Vision Fund – the world’s largest private equity fund that invests in technologies expected to grow significantly in the near future, such as robotics and artificial intelligence (AI). This latest move looks to the next wave of smart robotics.
According to Softbank Chairman & CEO Masayoshi Son, “Today, there are many issues we still cannot solve by ourselves with human capabilities. Smart robotics are going to be a key driver of the next stage of the Information Revolution, and … Boston Dynamics are the clear technology leaders in advanced dynamic robots. I … 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.”
On its part, Boston Dynamics offered the following statement from CEO and founder Marc Raibert: “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.”
As part of its agreement with Alphabet, Softbank will also acquire humanoid bipedal robotics company Schaft (Tokyo, Japan), a spin-off of the University of Tokyo’s JSK Laboratory and winner of the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trial in 2013. Research at JSK Laboratory is focused on “the fundamental functions and systems necessary for future intelligent robots that will live and work in the daily life field and human society.”
Both Schaft and Boston Dynamics were acquired by Google in 2013, as part of a new robotics division called Replicant. However difficulties involving their integration within Google, and the departure in 2014 of Android co-founder Andy Rubin who had led the acquisitions, had raised questions about the company’s direction in this space. Alphabet had been reportedly trying to sell Boston Dynamics for over a year.
Marine Corps says goodbye to robot mule
AI expert: Say “No” to autonomous killer robots
ARM, SoftBank goal to ‘bring happiness to everyone’
Honda vehicles to “read” driver’s emotions