SoftBank has made yet another notable purchase in the land of tech, this time for Boston Dynamics, an engineering and robotics design company that has built some eerily lifelike robots. Google's parent company Alphabet had been shopping the robotics firm for more than a year after acquiring the company in 2013 and has now found a buyer.
Boston Dynamics gained notoriety on the Internet by posting videos of its various robots, including Atlas, a human-like contraption that stands 5-feet 9-inches tall and weighs 180 pounds. Armed with sensors in its body, legs to balance, and both LIDAR and stereo sensors in its head to avoid obstacles, Atlas is able to assess the terrain and move around like an agile human. It can even withstand intentional abuse.
The remarkable capabilities of Boston Dynamics' robots brought inevitable references to Skynet, the fictional neural net-based artificial intelligence system that serves as the main antagonist in the Terminator movie franchise. But despite the nifty demonstrations, Alphabet reportedly had trouble getting the company to build a product that could be marketed and sold in the near term, hence part of the reason why it decided to sell the firm.
SoftBank's acquisition is based on a longer-term vision for Boston Dynamics.
"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," said Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO of SoftBank.
Boston Dynamics founder and CEO Marc Raibert also expressed excitement at the buyout, adding that his company shares "SoftBank's belief that advances in technology should be for the benefit of humanity."
Financial details of the deal were not disclosed. That said, SoftBank has been willing to spend big bucks on technologies and ventures it believes have potential. Just last month, SoftBank grabbed a $4 billion stake of NVIDIA, and around this time a year ago the company offered to purchase ARM for $31.4 billion in cash.
Images Source: Boston Dynamics