It’s official: Boston Dynamics is joining Hyundai

The Robot Report
Hyundai Boston Dynamics

Hyundai could open new doors for Boston Dynamics and its robots. | Credit: Boston Dynamics

It’s official. Hyundai Motor Corp announced this morning it is acquiring a controlling stake in Boston Dynamics for about $880 million.

Hyundai Motor will own 80% of Boston Dynamics, while a Softbank affiliate will retain the other 20%. The final numbers are a bit different than our initial reporting, but the deal values Boston Dynamics at $1.1 billion. Hyundai Motor Group’s affiliates – Hyundai Motor Co., Hyundai Mobis Co. and Hyundai Glovis Co. – and Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Euisun Chung participated in the acquisition.

It’s still not clear exactly what the future holds for this relationship, but there are many ways in which it could be mutually beneficial. Boston Dynamics commercialized its Spot quadruped in June 2020, and Hyundai’s in-house manufacturing expertise and existing customer base could help scale Spot and yet-to-be-released robots such as Atlas and Handle.

Headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, Hyundai Motor Group operates in many industries other than automotive, including construction, which has been an early source of success for Spot. Hyundai is set to play an even larger role in this industry than it already has. Hyundai Construction Equipment is set to acquire a 36-percent, controlling stake in Doosan Infracore. According to reports, this would create the world’s fifth-largest construction equipment player and the No. 1 player in South Korea.

“Boston Dynamics’ commercial business has grown rapidly as we’ve brought to market the first robot that can automate repetitive and dangerous tasks in workplaces designed for human-level mobility,” said Robert Playter, CEO of Boston Dynamics. “We and Hyundai share a view of the transformational power of mobility and look forward to working together to accelerate our plans to enable the world with cutting edge automation, and to continue to solve the world’s hardest robotics challenges for our customers.”

Robotics has become a bigger focus for Hyundai since Chung was named chairman in October. And Boston Dynamics’ superbly talented engineers could help Hyundai achieve its vision. The company said robotics will account for 20% of its future business. Hyundai Robotics was founded in 2017, but it officially launched earlier in 2020. The company’s automotive group invested in autonomous vehicle startup 42dot and Realtime Robotics in 2019. Hyundai has also created a $4 billion autonomous vehicle joint venture with Aptiv.

In this morning’s announcement, Hyundai Motor Group said “Hyundai Motor Group’s AI and Human Robot Interaction (HRI) expertise is highly synergistic with Boston Dynamics’s 3D vision, manipulation, and bipedal/quadruped expertise.” It also said its plans to invest in logistics robots, which Boston Dynamics has with Handle and the Pick vision system. Hyundai Motor Group also said it “plans to expand its presence into the humanoid robot market with the aim of developing humanoid robots for sophisticated services such as caregiving for patients at hospitals.” How realistic this is remains to be seen, but Boston Dynamics’ Atlas is by far the most sophisticated humanoid robot ever built.

Hyundai has recently emphasized its “strategic transformation” to becoming a “Smart Mobility Solution Provider.” Clearly it thinks Boston Dynamics will aid in that transformation. During its 2025 vision presentation earlier this week, Hyundai discussed last-mile delivery at length. Last-mile delivery is an application that was discussed early on for Spot.

“Boston Dynamics is at the heart of smart robotics,” said Masayoshi Son, Representative Director, Corporate Officer, Chairman & CEO of SoftBank Group. “We are thrilled to partner with Hyundai, one of the world’s leading global mobility companies, to accelerate the company’s path to commercialization. Boston Dynamics has a very bright future and we remain invested in the company’s success.”

Hyundai becomes the third owner of Boston Dynamics in seven years. It was acquired by Google in 2013 and sold to Softbank Group in 2017. The RBR50 company has mainly operated as an R&D organization since it was founded. But a new emphasis on commercialization was evident after it was acquired by Softbank.

Tokyo-based SoftBank Group. The Japanese conglomerate is selling off non-core business assets after it was hit hard by a series of soured bets, including WeWork and Uber. In September 2020, Softbank sold Arm to NVIDIA for $40 billion.

Softbank Group has also been going through leadership changes. Sources have told The Robot Report several champions of the Boston Dynamics acquisition are no longer at Softbank. SoftBank Group is also a holding company for SoftBank Robotics, which produces the Pepper humanoid (formerly from Aldebaran Robotics) and the Whiz commercial floor-cleaning robot.

Michael Perry, vice president of business development at Boston Dynamics, recently joined The Robot Report Podcast to discuss the commercial launch of Spot and its most unique applications. You can listen to that conversation below, but we’re hoping to get him back on the podcast next week.

The press release announcing the acquisition is reprinted below in its entirety:

Hyundai Motor Group and SoftBank Group Corp. (SoftBank) today agreed on main terms of the transaction pursuant to which Hyundai Motor Group will acquire a controlling interest in Boston Dynamics in a deal that values the mobile robot firm at $1.1 billion. The deal came as Hyundai Motor Group envisions the transformation of human life by combining world-leading robotics technologies with its mobility expertise. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Under the agreement, Hyundai Motor Group will hold an approximately 80% stake in Boston Dynamics and SoftBank, through one of its affiliates, will retain an approximately 20% stake in Boston Dynamics after the closing of the transaction. Hyundai Motor Group’s affiliates – Hyundai Motor Co., Hyundai Mobis Co. and Hyundai Glovis Co. – and Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Euisun Chung respectively participated in the acquisition.

By establishing a leading presence in the field of robotics, the acquisition will mark another major step for Hyundai Motor Group toward its strategic transformation into a Smart Mobility Solution Provider. To propel this transformation, Hyundai Motor Group has invested substantially in development of future technologies, including in fields such as autonomous driving technology, connectivity, eco-friendly vehicles, smart factories, advanced materials, artificial intelligence (AI), and robots.

Advanced robotics offer opportunities for rapid growth with the potential to positively impact society in multiple ways. Boston Dynamics is the established leader in developing agile, mobile robots that have been successfully integrated into various business operations. The deal is also expected to allow Hyundai Motor Group and Boston Dynamics to leverage each other’s respective strengths in manufacturing, logistics, construction and automation.

“We are delighted to have Boston Dynamics, a world leader in mobile robots, join the Hyundai team. This transaction will unite capabilities of Hyundai Motor Group and Boston Dynamics to spearhead innovation in future mobility. The synergies created by our union offer exciting new pathways for our companies to realize our goal – providing free and safe movement and higher plane of life experiences for humanity,” said Euisun Chung, Chairman of Hyundai Motor Group. “We will also contribute to the society by enhancing its safety, security, public health amid global trends of aging society and digital transformation.”

Masayoshi Son, Representative Director, Corporate Officer, Chairman & CEO of SoftBank Group said, “Boston Dynamics is at the heart of smart robotics. We are thrilled to partner with Hyundai, one of the world’s leading global mobility companies, to accelerate the company’s path to commercialization. Boston Dynamics has a very bright future and we remain invested in the company’s success.”

“Boston Dynamics’ commercial business has grown rapidly as we’ve brought to market the first robot that can automate repetitive and dangerous tasks in workplaces designed for human-level mobility. We and Hyundai share a view of the transformational power of mobility and look forward to working together to accelerate our plans to enable the world with cutting edge automation, and to continue to solve the world’s hardest robotics challenges for our customers,” said Robert Playter, CEO of Boston Dynamics.

Boston Dynamics produces highly capable mobile robots with advanced mobility, dexterity and intelligence, enabling automation in difficult, dangerous, or unstructured environments. The company launched sales of its first commercial robot, Spot in June of 2020 and has since sold hundreds of robots in a variety of industries, such as power utilities, construction, manufacturing, oil and gas, and mining. Boston Dynamics plans to expand the Spot product line early next year with an enterprise version of the robot with greater levels of autonomy and remote inspection capabilities, and the release of a robotic arm, which will be a breakthrough in mobile manipulation.

Boston Dynamics is also entering the logistics automation market with the industry leading Pick, a computer vision-based depalletizing solution, and will introduce a mobile robot for warehouses in 2021.

An Outstanding Platform for Boston Dynamics’ future growth

Headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, Hyundai Motor Group is a global automotive group operating in the automobile, steel, construction, machine tools, logistics, and other industries. With more than 16,000 employees working in 40 facilities across 10 states, including its $1.8 billion auto manufacturing plant in Alabama, Hyundai Motor Group is a well-established investor, manufacturer, and innovator in the United States.

Hyundai Motor Group’s decision to acquire Boston Dynamics is based on its growth potential and wide range of capabilities. Boston Dynamics possesses multiple key technologies for high-performance robots equipped with perception, navigation, and intelligence. Also, Boston Dynamics is located in Boston and Silicon Valley, both major robot cluster regions, which is advantageous to sourcing key robotics talents and collaborating with competent partners.

Hyundai Motor Group’s AI and Human Robot Interaction (HRI) expertise is highly synergistic with Boston Dynamics’s 3D vision, manipulation, and bipedal/quadruped expertise.

Hyundai Motor Group will provide Boston Dynamics a strategic partner affording access to Hyundai Motor Group’s in-house manufacturing capability and cost benefits stemming from efficiencies of scale. Boston Dynamics will benefit substantially from new capital, technology, affiliated customers, and Hyundai Motor Group’s global market reach enhancing commercialization opportunity for its robot products.

Hyundai Motor Group and Boston Dynamics: Spearheading advancement in Robotics

Hyundai Motor Group’s acquisition of Boston Dynamics showcases its continued commitment to achieve free and safe movement for humanity through open innovation.

Hyundai Motor Group believes that the robotics market has potential for significant growth in the future. Hyundai Motor Group plans to invest in logistics robots to enhance efficiency and establish logistics automation, as well as service robots, which have broad usage potential beyond commercial use in areas such as public security and safety. In health-related public services, robots can be used to offer freedom of mobility for the disabled or the elderly.

The investment in Boston Dynamics furthers Hyundai’s portfolio of technology that addresses opportunities for both service robots and logistics robots. Service robots like Spot have the potential to perform dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks in settings where automation has been challenging to implement. With its computer vision solution, Pick, for depalletizing and its mobile warehouse robot in development, Boston Dynamics will expand Hyundai’s footprint in logistics robots.

Over time, Hyundai Motor Group plans to expand its presence into the humanoid robot market with the aim of developing humanoid robots for sophisticated services such as caregiving for patients at hospitals.

Hyundai Motor Group envisions robotics technologies to lend synergies to the new mobility solutions such as autonomous driving and UAM as well as smart factory platforms it hopes to develop in the near future. Furthermore, the other Hyundai Motor Group entities are expected to contribute their respective manufacturing, R&D and logistics capabilities to help generate a new robotics-focused value chain that is anticipated to create synergies with Boston Dynamics.

Hyundai Motor Group has been steadily investing in and developing robots with its proprietary technologies. At CES 2017, Hyundai Motor Company revealed MEX, which helps paraplegic patients walk once more. In 2018, Hyundai Motor introduced VEX and CEX, aimed to help alleviate the burden of workers in the workplace. Hyundai also demonstrated its capabilities in service robots by its pilot program of hotel service robot in June of 2019. It plans to deploy sales service robots into operation next year. Robotics Lab of Hyundai is devoted to the research and development of robots, while its affiliates continue to work on the commercial production of industrial robots.

The transaction, subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions, is expected to close by June of 2021.

The post It’s official: Boston Dynamics is joining Hyundai appeared first on The Robot Report.


Source: therobotreport

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