Hyundai Motor Group agreed to purchase a controlling stake in Boston Dynamics Inc. in a deal that values the mobile robot firm at $ 1.1 billion.
Hyundai Motor Group, together with some associated companies and President Euisun Chung, will acquire an 80% stake in the US robotics company from SoftBank Group Corp., leaving the Japanese firm with a 20% stake, the companies said in a statement on Friday. the The deal was first reported by Bloomberg News in November.
South Korean conglomerate Hyundai Motor Group has been stepping up its robotics research as it expands further into electric and autonomous vehicles. Revolutionary soldier Hyundai Motor Co. plans to spend more than 60 trillion won ($ 55 billion) in the next five years in these areas to become one of the world’s leading automakers. The empire in general is also exploring practical uses for industrial robots.
“The combination of the highly complementary technologies from Hyundai Motor Group and Boston Dynamics, and SoftBank’s continued partnership, will drive the development and commercialization of advanced robots,” the companies said, helping to create a “robotic value chain spanning from the manufacture of robotic components “. to intelligent logistics solutions “.
Other Hyundai entities participating include auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis Co. and Hyundai Glovis Co., which provides national and international logistics services. Together with Hyundai Motor the trio will spend around 717 billion won, with Hyundai Motor taking 30%, Mobis 20% and Glovis 10%. The transaction is expected to close in June.
A sale of Boston Dynamics would mark another turning point in the history of a company that emerged from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the early 1990s and operated independently until Google bought it in 2013. It was sold again in 2017, that time to SoftBank.
At times, Boston Dynamics has functioned more like a research organization than a company, producing machines that are technologically advanced and faddish, but not profitable. That includes Spot, a maneuverable robot like a dog. The videos of his creations regularly accumulate millions of views on YouTube; however, the company has said that it is currently not making a profit.
Within SoftBank, Boston Dynamics was part of a disparate collection of robotics companies in the technology company’s portfolio, including developers of robots for warehouses, restaurants, and other industrial applications. Its staff tripled to 300 people and it moved to new headquarters in a converted old postal building in Waltham, Massachusetts, at a cost of $ 20 million, a person familiar with the matter said earlier this year. Late last year, SoftBank made a new push to drive the robot maker toward profitability, accelerating an effort that had started with Google.
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Hyundai, by contrast, makes very practical industrial robots intended for factory use. The group has been developing robotics such as exoskeleton suits that help relieve fatigue and prevent injury to factory workers. It is also working on robots with artificial intelligence that can provide assistance in hotels and other service sectors.
The investment “boosts Hyundai’s technology portfolio that addresses opportunities for both service robots and logistics robots,” according to Friday’s statement. “Service robots like Spot have the potential to perform boring, dirty and dangerous tasks in environments where automation has been difficult to implement. With its computer vision solution, Pick, for depalletizing and its mobile warehouse robot under development, Boston Dynamics will expand Hyundai’s footprint in logistics robots. ”
Hyundai said it plans to expand its presence in the humanoid robot market over time, with the goal of developing robots for sophisticated services such as caring for patients in hospitals.
Chung, who became president of the group in October, has been constantly transforming the conglomerate to introduce more electric vehicle lineups and plans to enter the air vehicle market in 2028.
The group is also building a Innovation Center in Singapore, where Hyundai will work on developing artificial intelligence, big data and other technologies to improve its manufacturing processes, honing the “brains” behind the smartest and greenest cars of tomorrow.
(Updates with details of the statement at all times.)