Hyundai has taken an 80% controlling stake in Boston Robotics.
With each passing day, it seems the world's carmakers are acting less like automotive companies and more like tech companies. The sudden explosion of interest in fully autonomous driving and high-tech mobility of a few years ago has brought with it a fixation with everything from information technology to civil engineering, from aerial transportation to robotics.
The latest news on that front: South Korea's Hyundai Motor Company has purchased what might be the world's most famous robotics company.
Massachusetts-based Boston Dynamics, formed in 1992 after spinning off from the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is responsible for some of the most eerily lifelike, internet meme-worthy mobile robots the world has ever known. Now, Hyundai has announced that it's taken an 80-percent controlling stake in the company.
Before you ask, no, we don't imagine that Boston Dynamics is going to get straight to work building a robot chauffeur to drive you around in your pre-autonomy Hyundai Sonata. That said, Hyundai is hoping that Boston Dynamics technology - especially in the area of machine vision and decision-making - will translate to its own self-driving car efforts; if Boston Dynamics' sensors and algorithms can help a quadrupedal robot navigate around obstacles within a room, maybe it can help an autonomous car navigate obstacles on the road, too.
In addition, Hyundai says that Boston Dynamics tech could help as the company continues to work on things like Urban Air Mobility (UAM) and seeks new high-tech solutions to driving greater efficiency in its manufacturing and logistics. Recently, Ford became a Boston Dynamics customer when the company leased laser scanner-equipped quadrupedal robots to scan every square inch of its Van Dyke Transmission Plant - an expensive, time-consuming task that the automaker was only too happy to automate.
But Hyundai's involvement with Boston Dynamics could see the company venturing even further outside its usual milieu. Hyundai says that over time, it plans to expand in the humanoid robot space through its controlling stake, with the goal of eventually engineering human-like robots to perform complex tasks like administering care to hospital patients.
"Boston Dynamics' commercial business has grown rapidly as we've brought to market the first robot that can automate repetitive and dangerous tasks in workplaces designed for human-level mobility," Boston Dynamics CEO Robert Playter said in a statement. "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, and to continue to solve the world's hardest robotics challenges for our customers."