Japanese multinational Softbank isn't afraid to spend a lot of cash in order to secure some of the hottest tech properties on the market today. The company demonstrated this in July last year when it acquired chip company ARM Holdings for around $32 billion. Now we can add Boston Dynamics to its list of assets.
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Google started putting the feelers out for a sale of its robotics division Boston Dynamics in March last year. At the time, a few buyers were thought to be already showing an interest, including Toyota and Amazon, but nothing came of it. Fourteen months on and Softbank just announced a definitive agreement to acquire the robot company from Google parent Alphabet.
"Today, there are many issues we still cannot solve by ourselves with human capabilities. 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," Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO of SoftBank Group Corp, said in a statement. "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."
Boston Dynamics isn't the only robotics company Softbank acquired as part of the Alphabet deal. The press release also mentions Schaft, a Japanese bipedal robot company founded in the JSK Robotics Laboratory at the University of Tokyo and also owned by Alphabet. Schaft was acquired by Google back in 2013 when it decided to embrace robots and bought up eight companies.
Neither Alphabet nor Softbank is discussing the terms of the deal, so we don't know how much money is changing hands or if there are any caveats. What we do know is Softbank just became a major player in the robotics market, adding to its existing Pepper robot research. And of course, it can make full use of new ARM chips inside them.