Hyundai Motor Company said Friday morning that it is buying a controlling stake in Boston Dynamics — a Massachusetts company known for its four-legged robot dog “Spot” and other running and jumping machines — in a deal that values the company at $1.1 billion.
The deal between the South Korean automaker and SoftBank Group Corp., the owner of Boston Dynamics, grants Hyundai an approximately 80 percent stake in the Waltham-based robotics company. SoftBank, a public holding company headquartered in Tokyo, will retain a 20 percent stake. (The numbers suggest Hyundai is paying roughly $880 million for its stake; an earlier report in the Korean press pegged the price at $921 million.)
“Boston Dynamics is at the heart of smart robotics,” said Masayoshi Son, the chairman and chief executive of SoftBank, in a press release. “We are thrilled to partner with Hyundai, one of the world’s leading global mobility companies, to accelerate the company’s path to commercialization.”
The exact financial terms of the deal, which is expected to close by June 2021, were not disclosed.
Boston Dynamics was founded by former professor Marc Raibert and spun out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1992. The parent company of Google, Alphabet Inc., acquired Boston Dynamics in 2013 and then sold it to SoftBank in 2017.
Robert Playter, the chief executive of Boston Dynamics, said the company saw rapid growth after it brought its first robot to market earlier this year, the robot dog Spot. The company said it has already sold hundreds of Spot robots across industries including power utilities, construction, manufacturing, oil and gas, and mining.
“We and Hyundai share a view of the transformational power of mobility and look forward to working together to accelerate our plans to enable the world with cutting edge automation,” Playter said in a press release.
With Boston Dynamics, Hyundai will continue to market and sell Spot to perform “dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks” in settings that have been challenging to automate, according to the release. The company will also expand its presence in the humanoid robot market, potentially deploying Boston Dynamics’ human-like robot, Atlas, in hospital settings. Spot was used in March at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston as a telemedicine platform, allowing healthcare workers to remotely triage patients while limiting their potential exposure to COVID-19.
Hyundai said its decision to acquire Boston Dynamics stems from the robotics firm’s “growth potential and wide range of capabilities.” Hyundai was also drawn to its physical locations — in Boston and Silicon Valley — which are “advantageous to sourcing key robotics talents and collaborating with competent partners.”
Massachusetts has long been a hotbed for robotics companies. Founded in 1990, Bedford-based iRobot makes the popular Roomba vacuum. In 2012, Amazon spent $775 million to acquire local startup Kiva Systems, which now powers the robotic fulfillment systems in the retail giant’s warehouses. Early this year, Bedford-based Berkshire Grey, which is also working in warehouse automation, said it raised a $265 million funding round. Boston Dynamics, with Hyundai, is expected to roll out a mobile robot for use in warehouses in 2021, according to Friday’s announcement.