Google sells Boston Dynamics to SoftBank
Alphabet, the parent company of Google is selling Boston Dynamics and Schaft to Japan’s SoftBank for an undisclosed sum. This deal comes about a year after the companies were put up for sale.
Both companies are doing great when it comes to creating new robots and improving the previous ones. Boston Dynamic’s Atlas is one of the most advanced humanoid robots in the world, and its Big Dog robot was being tested for use in the military. At the same time, Schaft’ S-One robot has been the winner of DARPA Robotics Challenge.
Although both companies while good at robotics, they were not able to create robots which were marketable, which is essential for generating revenues, as the Big Dog robot was rejected by the US Marine Corps, saying that it was too noisy for practical use.
Andy Rubin who is also the creator of Android OS became head of Android division at Google after selling it to them, before going on to lead Google’s robotics division. Then, he started acquiring robotics companies like Boston Dynamics, Schaft, and many others. Even after being acquired by Google, Boston Dynamics remained in Boston, and Schaft in Japan, far from main Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. This slowed down the integration of these companies into wider Google family.
Soon, Andy moved on to start his own company, leaving robotics division of Google without leadership for a while. Google’s robotics division’s new leader wanted Boston Dynamics to create something which could be marketable in two or three years which was not the same thing which Marc Raibert wanted.
The lack of integration and marketability of the robots created by them may be the reason Google agreed to sell these companies. Now it is up to SoftBank to integrate them into their already existing robotics business and to generate revenues for making the deal sustainable.
About Boston Dynamics
Boston Dynamics was founded in 1992, as a spin-off from Massachusetts Institute of Technology is headed by Marc Raibert. Robots created by it includes Atlas, Big Dog, etc. In December 2013, it was purchased by Google. On 8 June 2017, it was sold to SoftBank of Japan.
Schaft was founded in 2012 in the JSK Robotics Laboratory at the University of Tokyo. Its S-One robot was the winner of the first DARPA Robotics Challenge. But here is an article on Schaft at IEEE.
Google was founded in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while doing Ph.D. at Stanford University was a search engine company. Now Google’s business includes software, cloud computing, search, online advertising and recently hardware. Previously it had Youtube, health care research, venture capital, etc. under its control which now falls under its parent company Alphabet. Alphabet is world’s second largest company by market capitalization and also the second largest internet company by revenue worldwide.
SoftBank company was founded in 1981 by Masayoshi Son. The company is active in telecommunications, internet, media, finance, e-commerce, semiconductor business, etc. It made headlines with a £23.4 billion takeover of ARM Holdings which was equivalent to US$32 billion at the time of the deal. It also announced a US$100 billion Vision Fund backed by Softbank, Saudi Arabia’s PIF, Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala, Apple, Qualcomm, Sharp, and Foxconn.
Enjoy the videos below of Schaft’s robot at DARPA Robotics Challenge and the next gen Atlas robot by Boston Dynamics.