Japanese tech giant, SoftBank, has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire robotics companies Boston Dynamics and Schaft from Alphabet, Google’s parent company, for an undisclosed amount. According to SoftBank, the move is in line with its plan to invest in technology firms catalyzing the ‘next-wave’ of smart robotics.
Both Boston Dynamics and Schaft, that are developing four legged and bipedal robot prototypes, were acquired by Google in 2013. While Boston Dynamics has been publicly showcasing its projects, Japanese bipedal robotics company, Schaft, has been very secretive about its developments.
“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 Marc and his team at Boston Dynamics are the clear technology leaders in advanced dynamic robots,” said Masayoshi Son, Chairman and CEO, SoftBank Group.
“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.”
Boston Dynamics has developed several robots that copy animal and human motor functions. Projects such as Atlas, a humanoid robot that mimics human motion and balance using its arms and legs and can pick itself up off the ground when knocked over. Similarly Big Dog and SpotMini are its four legged models that replicate the motor movements of animals and can also pick themselves up after being knocked over.
Boston Dynamics projects such as DI-Guy and Big-Dog have been designed for the US Military with funding from DARPA (Defense Advaced Research Projects Agency). According media reports, because the company has military associations, the acquisition is likely to be subject to regulatory approval from Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.
“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, 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.”
Though Schaft has been secretive in its work, the company was founded in 2012 in the JSK Robotics Laboratory at the University of Tokyo, under the leadership of co-founders Yuto Nakanishi, Junichi Urata, Narito Suzuki and Koichi Nishiwaki.