SoftBank Buying Alphabet Inc. Robotic Businesses
On Friday, SoftBank Group announced that it would acquire two companies from Alphabet Inc. the parent company of Google. The companies specialize in making walking robots. This adds to the growing portfolio of artificial intelligence for the Japanese company.
SoftBank announced it would acquire Schaft, based in Tokyo and Boston Dynamics. Both design as well as manufacture robots that simulate the movement of humans. Terms of each transaction were not disclosed.
Shares at SoftBank were up as high as 7.9% following the announcement of the deals reaching a high of 17 years.
Masayoshi Son the chairman of SoftBank Group said smart robotics would be the key driver of the information revolution’s next stage and the team from Boston Dynamics, led by Marc Raibert, is the clear leaders in this technology of advances robots.
Raibert founded Boston Dynamics and is its CEO.
SoftBank has been going through an aggressive campaign of making acquisition to increase its capabilities of research and development.
The group is the backing behind the Vision Fund of $93 billion, the largest private equity fund in the world that seeks to make investments in technologies that are expected to significantly grow over the short term, such as artificial intelligence and robotics.
Son, the richest man in Japan, describes the large fund as essential in setting up the company for a gold rush in data, which he is expecting to take place as the world’s economy becomes more and more digitized.
Schaft and Boston Dynamics could at some point become vested with the Vision Fund, said one person close to the deal.
Schaft, a spinoff from the University of Tokyo, develops robots that are bipedal designed to negotiate terrain that is uneven.
A spokesperson from Alphabet Inc. said that robotics has huge potential and the company is happy to see Schaft and Boston Dynamics join the team of SoftBank to continue their contribution to robotics’ next generation.
Boston Dynamics has developed several robots that are able to mimic animal as well as human movement, including a humanoid model known as Atlas that is able to coordinate motion and balance by using both its arms and legs. It can also pick itself up from the ground if knocked over.
However, it is known best for making robots that appear to belong in sci-fi movies and often are co-funded or co-developed by the military in the U.S. It is the military projects that would mean this acquisition could become subject to approval from regulators in the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S.