The Massachusetts-based robotics vendor Boston Dynamics gained some powerful leverage today for its continuing push into the warehouse automation sector, announcing it had been acquired by automotive giant Hyundai Motor Group.
Seoul, South Korea-based Hyundai paid about $880 million to buy an 80% stake in Boston Dynamics, with previous owner Softbank Group retaining a 20% share of the company. Subject to regulatory approvals and other closing conditions, the transaction is expected to close by June of 2021.
Tokyo-based Softbank is a frequent investor in logistics firms, also holding stakes in startups like the third party logistics provider (3PL) ShipBob, robotics artificial intelligence (AI) firm Brain Corp., robotic fulfillment solution provider Berkshire Grey, mobile inventory scanning robot maker Simbe Robotics Inc., and autonomous mobile robot (AMR) vendor Fetch Robotics Inc.
In contrast, Hyundai is a newer player in the logistics space, but the company said the move was part of a larger strategy to transform itself into a “smart mobility solution provider,” following previous investments in autonomous driving technology, connectivity, eco-friendly vehicles, smart factories, advanced materials, artificial intelligence (AI), and robots.
According to Hyundai, the deal will propel the development and commercialization of advanced robots for applications in autonomous vehicles, urban air mobility (UAM), and smart factories. In addition, Hyundai and Boston Dynamics will now team to create a “robotics value chain” ranging from robot component manufacturing to smart logistics solutions.
Boston Dynamics already sells a computer vision solution called Pick that is installed on robotic arms for depalletizing tasks, and is currently developing a mobile, ostrich-shaped unit called Handle for moving cartons around the warehouse, set for release in 2022. Outside of logistics, the company is best known for its dog-like service robot called Spot that is designed to perform “dull, dirty, and dangerous” tasks in settings like power utilities, construction, manufacturing, oil and gas, and mining.The company defines its position within the sector with a tight focus on depalletizing and case handling, as opposed to moving pallets or picking individual items. Specifically, its Pick vision system allows users to roll a pallet in from of a robot arm and then stand back while it singulates the cartons onto a conveyor, whether they include single-SKU goods, multi-layered stacks, or a large variety of different cartons and cases, the company says.
We’re thrilled to be joining Hyundai Motor Group, a partner that shares our vision for the future of mobile robots like Spot, Handle, and Atlas. Read more: https://t.co/fWB9ZquDIh pic.twitter.com/5m1xJlKWMJ— Boston Dynamics (@BostonDynamics) December 11, 2020