Japanese technology company SoftBank is acquiring acclaimed robot maker Boston Dynamics from Alphabet (Google), along with Japanese bipedal robotics company Schaft, both of which were acquired by Alpahabet in 2013. This is part of SoftBank’s move into the robotics space, exemplified by the SoftBank Robotics “Pepper” humanoid robot whose roles have been increasing beyond the consumer space recently. SoftBank’s robot lineup now includes Pepper, Boston Dynamics’ BigDog and Handle, Schaft’s S-One, and related projects, and Fetch robotics’ warehouse fulfillment robots, making it a versatile player in this space with multi-mission capability.
According to the press release, Masayoshi Son, Chairman and CEO of SoftBank Group, said:
“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. 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 is known for its DARPA military-oriented robots, including BigDog, Handle, and the humanoid robot Alpha. It has been struggling to find a market for its products, in this stage of development, and Alphabet has been trying to sell the operation since last year.
SoftBank has a wide range of related interests and commitments within this area, including advanced telecommunications, internet services, AI, smart robotics, IoT, clean energy technology providers, and ARM processors. It entered the robotics market through acquisition of Aldebaran Robotics in 2012. Aldebaran, creator of the Nao and Romeo robots, was renamed Softbank Robotics and created a social robot called Pepper, which is being tested in a growing range of consumer and business settings.
Softbank’s robotics ventures are centered in its Tokyo-based subsidiary SoftBank Robotics Holding Corp, established in 2014, with offices in Japan, France, U.S. and China. SoftBank Robotics has more than 500 employees working in Paris, Tokyo, San Francisco, Boston and Shanghai. Its robots are used in more than 70 countries for research, education, retail, healthcare, tourism, hospitality and entertainment.
The CEO of Boston Dynamics Explains Each Robot in the Fleet (jurvetson)
SoftBank Robotics Meet Pepper (SoftBank Robotics America)