Boston Dynamics finally finds a buyer in big spender SoftBank

9 Jun 2017

Still from ‘Introducing Spot’. Image: BostonDynamics/YouTube

After more than a year of trying to offload Boston Dynamics, Alphabet has finally found a buyer for the robotics firm in acquisition-hungry SoftBank.

Over the past few years, Boston Dynamics has wowed the web with its sporadic video releases showing its latest robots being kicked, abused and looking downright creepy at times.

In 2013, Google announced it had acquired the company, with promises of a big push to bring robotics into the real world.

However, this was not to be. Google ultimately came to the conclusion that the company was not a good fit, and put it up for sale last year. It has since struggled to find a buyer.

Now, Google’s parent company Alphabet can rest easy knowing it has finally found one: SoftBank, a Japanese telecoms giant that has been splashing the cash, with a number of major mergers, acquisitions and funding rounds under its belt.

SoftBank issued a statement confirming the purchase for an undisclosed amount, and also announced the purchase of Japanese company Schaft.

Founded in 2012, bipedal robotics company Schaft was also owned by Alphabet and garnered attention last year when it showed off footage of its then-latest creation, designed to walk like a human.

SoftBank’s big ambitions

Making clear the company’s intentions and interest in the future of robotics, SoftBank’s CEO and chairperson Masayoshi Son 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 [founder and CEO Marc Raibert] and his team at Boston Dynamics are the clear technology leaders in advanced dynamic robots.”

Raibert had added that he and his company are “excited to work” with the Japanese firm, which shares Boston Dynamics’ vision.

“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,” he said.

The deal caps an incredible few months for SoftBank, as the company continues its efforts to acquire or fund what it thinks are the most important technologies of the future.

Last month, SoftBank announced it was to invest $1.4bn in India’s up-and-coming fintech start-up Paytm, while last year the company revealed the $24bn takeover of semiconductor stalwart ARM in an attempt to enter the internet of things space.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic