Hyundai Motor Group has purchased a major controlling stake of robot maker Boston Dynamics from SoftBank, the companies announced on Saturday. The deal valued Boston Dynamics at USD1.1 billion (~MYR4.5b), with Hyundai taking approximately 80% stake in the company, while its previous owner, SoftBank, retains approximately 20%.
Hyundai says that the investment in Boston Dynamics is in line with its strategy to transform into a “Smart Mobility Solution Provider”. The Korean carmaker says that this investment will help its development of its autonomous driving technologies, as well as service, smart factories, and logistics automation.
Boston Dynamics started life in 1992 as an off-shoot from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Over the years, the company has risen to internet fame due to its vaguely creepy humanoid robots and its demonstration videos on YouTube, which led netizens to believe that they will one day become sentient and eventually spawn a real life “Skynet” (from the movie Terminator) to hit back at humans for our “abuse”.
We’ve attached a video of said “abuse” for your entertainment purposes:
More recently the company’s robot dog, Spot, has also inspired dystopian science-fiction TV series Black Mirror to create an episode featuring an evil killer robot dog, which further fuelled the narrative. Fortunately, Boston Dynamics’ Spot seems to be a lot tamer than the sci-fi rendition (for now…), and does have a lovable side, evident in the video below where it dances along to Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk.
Spot is now commercially available to purchase, with hundreds of robots already sold deployed in a variety of industries, such as power utilities, construction, manufacturing, oil and gas, and mining.
In the announcement, Hyundai also said that it wants to build humanoid robots eventually, specifically for “specialised services” such as caregiving hospital patients.
The Korean carmaker has long been involved in robotics and automation, with recent announcements cementing Hyundai’s commitment to the investment of up to USD1.4 billion in the field by 2025. Last year, Hyundai unveiled a robotic exoskeleton suit for its factory workers to assist in physically-straining overhead tasks.