Softbank bets on Boston robotics firm
After a rocky three-year marriage, Boston Dynamics, the Waltham company famed for making robots that walk like people or run like deer, has been dumped by Alphabet Inc., parent company of Google.
But it s a soft landing for Boston Dynamics, a company that has yet to translate its innovative technologies into profitable products.
Boston Dynamics fell into the arms of Softbank Group, a Japanese conglomerate that has recently been making billion-dollar bets on hot technologies ranging from satellite Internet systems to microchips. Softbank also scooped up another Google property: Schaft, a Japanese maker of human-shaped robots. Financial details of the acquisitions were not revealed. But with 2016 net income of $13.2 billion, Softbank can certainly afford the investments.
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I think Softbank has made a major commitment to the future of robotics, said Daniel Theobald, cofounder of Vecna Technologies Inc., a robot maker based in Cambridge. They understand that the world economy is going to be driven by robotics more and more. In 2013, about the same time Google bought Boston Dynamics, Softbank acquired Aldebaran Robotics, a French firm that makes human-shaped robots that roll on wheels, and are used as guides and greeters in Japanese retail stores.
But while Google is now backing off, Softbank is doubling down. With Boston Robotics in its portfolio, Softbank might someday offer walking robots that could stock store shelves, or provide home care for senior citizens.