Boston Dynamics is known for its humanoid robots, which have amazing capabilities. Now Hyundai is taking over the company – which also has a military aspect that should not be underestimated.
Boston Dynamics is based in Waltham in the US state of Massachusetts and is one of the most advanced robot developers in the world – after all, the company initially worked with DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) for the US Department of Defense. Accordingly, there was a great deal of excitement when Google bought the robotics developer at the end of 2013: with it, a corporation that has access to pretty much all of the knowledge stored on the Internet and a manufacturer of autonomous robots that are likely to be weapons-grade joined forces.
However, Google’s parent company Alphabet did not see any possibility of making profits with Boston Dynamics’ products in the long term either and wanted to sell the company to Toyota back in 2016. The deal fell through, and instead the Japanese telecommunications group Softbank snatched up the robot builder in mid-2017. And Softbank has now sold it to Hyundai for an impressive $921 million (currently around 753 million euros).
Spot to bring in profits
Hyundai sees Spot, the robot dog, as a particular profit earner. The mechanical quadruped is known from countless videos in which the machine Fiffi shows how it effortlessly runs, sprints, climbs stairs and runs through rough terrain in the forest. The robot even confidently compensates for an unexpected kick in the side. And it’s already on duty: Ford recently announced that Spot is systematically surveying one of the automaker’s U.S. plants and collecting all relevant data. Since summer 2020, anyone can buy Spot – one costs $75,000 (61,957 euros).
Boston Dynamics robot dog Sport masters a variety of motion sequences.
Car with legs already decided
For Hyundai, Boston Dynamics is not only interesting because of the robot dog. The Koreans are also conducting intensive research into exoskeletons, i.e. machines that can be worn on the body to simplify human mobility or even restore it after accidents. The know-how of the U.S. robot specialist could be just as valuable for this as it is for Hyundai’s so-called walking car: The walking car has wheels, but four extendable robot legs serve as the chassis. The vehicle presented as the Elevate Concept at CES 2019 (Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas) is designed to be extremely capable off-road, but also to easily pick up wheelchair users from the second floor of their house, for example.