Humanoid Robots Change Hands: SoftBank Buys Boston Dynamics, Schaft From Google

In the News
June 14, 2017

Google has ended one part of its foray into robotics with a deal to sell Boston Dynamics, maker of the BigDog quadruped and Atlas humanoid robots, to Japanese mobile carrier SoftBank Group Corp., known for its Pepper robots.

SoftBank will buy Boston Dynamics, led by CEO and founder Marc Raibert, as well as Japanese bipedal robotics company Schaft, from Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. under the deal announced Friday. Financial terms were not disclosed.

“Today, there are many issues we still cannot solve by ourselves with human capabilities,” SoftBank Group Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son said in a release. “Smart robotics are going to be a key driver of the next stage of the Information Revolution, and Marc and his team at Boston Dynamics are the clear technology leaders in advanced dynamic robots.”

“I am thrilled to welcome them to the SoftBank family and look forward to supporting them as they continue to advance the field of robotics and explore applications that can help make life easier, safer and more fulfilling,” said Son.

Acquisition ends speculation

Speculation has swirled for the past year about potential buyers for the companies, including Amazon.com Inc. and the Toyota Research Institute.

The deal comes a year and a half after entrepreneur Andy Rubin left Google, where he headed the search giant’s robotics project. The co-founder of the Android operating system has since been leading tech incubator Playground Global. Some observers saw his departure as a sign that Google’s robotics strategy had gone adrift after its 2013 shopping spree in which it bought a group of robotics companies, including Waltham, Mass.-based Boston Dynamics.

“We at Boston Dynamics are excited to be part of SoftBank’s bold vision and its position creating the next technology revolution, and we share SoftBank’s belief that advances in technology should be for the benefit of humanity,” Raibert said. “We look forward to working with SoftBank in our mission to push the boundaries of what advanced robots can do and to create useful applications in a smarter and more connected world.”

The notoriously secretive Schaft, founded at the JSK Robotics Laboratory at the University of Tokyo in 2012, had been off the radar since Google picked it up in 2013, when it excelled at the DARPA Robotics Challenge.

Last year, Schaft co-founder Yuto Nakanishi made a brief public appearance in Tokyo at the 2016 New Economy Summit, where he showed off...

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