Pepper the Robot's Creators are Going to Buy Boston Dynamics

The robotics company known for creating, in the words of their creators, “nightmare-inducing robots,” is getting a new owner that’s known for creating kinder, gentler-looking robots.

Japanese telecommunications firm SoftBank is buying Boston Dynamics from Alphabet, the parent company of Google. SoftBank’s also buying Tokyo-based Schaft, a robotics company that has a related mission to Boston Dynamics’s human-styled movement. Terms of the deal were not released.

SoftBank is best-known for making a customer service robot preciously named Pepper, and it seems the company is keen to continue moving forward in this area.

“Smart robotics are going to be a key driver of the next stage of the information revolution, and Marc (Raibert) and his team at Boston Dynamics are the clear technology leaders in advanced dynamic robots,” SoftBank Group Chairman Masayoshi Son said in a statement.

SoftBank's Pepper robot on the left, and Boston Dynamics's Atlas robot on the right.

Boston Dynamics’s robots are quite something to watch live. The company has produced a quadruped robot that can help clean houses, with an arm that extends from its back capable of picking up cans and throwing them in the trash. Another one, called Handle, is a bipedal bot capable of lifting weights of up to 100 pounds.

But perhaps the company’s biggest achievement is its combination of hardware and software that allows its machines to navigate the world with ease. You may have seen the video from last year that showed an employee pushing the Atlas robot around to demonstrate how it can handle sudden pushes.

So mean.

Boston Dynamics

SoftBank has a strong interest in robotics that will mesh well with the advancement of Boston Dynamics. Its Pepper customer service robot has found use in hi-tech stores around the world, like Pizza Hut restaurants in Asia, and in Japan it’s also available as a home bot. The company backs the Vision Fund, the world’s largest private equity fund, which it hopes can help position it to take advantage of the next big rush in new technologies.

Schaft, the other company SoftBank is purchasing, specializes in developing bipedal robots that don’t fall down. The group’s work is similar to Boston Dynamics, and it’s made impressive strides in developing machines that can walk up stairs. Pepper, which moves around on wheels, could probably learn a thing or two from Schaft.

“Robotics as a field has great potential, and we’re happy to see Boston Dynamics and Schaft join the SoftBank team to continue contributing to the next generation of robotics,” an Alphabet spokesperson said to Reuters.

Watch Boston Dynamics’s robots in action:

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