Google sells robot arms to SoftBank

Five robots in front of Boston Dynamics sign
(Image credit: Boston Dynamics)

Google's parent company Alphabet has sold robotics subsidiaries Boston Dynamics and SCHAFT to Japanese tech conglomerate SoftBank, the company has announced.

"Today, there are many issues we still cannot solve by ourselves with human capabilities," said founder and CEO of SoftBank Masayoshi Son. "Smart robotics are going to be a key driver of the next stage of the Information Revolution, and Marc and his team at Boston Dynamics are the clear technology leaders in advanced dynamic robots.

"I am thrilled to welcome them to the SoftBank family and look forward to supporting them as they continue to advance the field of robotics and explore applications that can help make life easier, safer and more fulfilling."

Boston Dynamics, which designs and manufactures humanoid and bipedal robots, has been up for sale for more than a year according to reports, after consistently struggling to translate its innovations into commercial revenue.

Much less is known about SCHAFT, a secretive robotics firm that was acquired by Google in 2013. The company was originally Japanese, and has previously entered robots into the DARPA Robotics Challenge alongside Boston Dynamics but little else is public knowledge.

SoftBank, on the other hand, already has a foothold in consumer robotics. The company's robot Pepper, which acts a personal companion for home and business users, has been a big hit in Japan.

The news was apparently popular with SoftBank's investors, who propelled the company's shares to the highest level they've reached in almost 20 years. The terms of the deal were not publicly disclosed.

SoftBank has been on something of an acquisition spree recently, snapping up UK chip manufacturer ARM for 24 billion just under a year ago. Son has been steadily building the company - which started as a telco - into a huge multinational. This has partly been accomplished through smart plays like an early investment in Jack Ma's e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Adam Shepherd

Adam Shepherd has been a technology journalist since 2015, covering everything from cloud storage and security, to smartphones and servers. Over the course of his career, he’s seen the spread of 5G, the growing ubiquity of wireless devices, and the start of the connected revolution. He’s also been to more trade shows and technology conferences than he cares to count.

Adam is an avid follower of the latest hardware innovations, and he is never happier than when tinkering with complex network configurations, or exploring a new Linux distro. He was also previously a co-host on the ITPro Podcast, where he was often found ranting about his love of strange gadgets, his disdain for Windows Mobile, and everything in between.

You can find Adam tweeting about enterprise technology (or more often bad jokes) @AdamShepherUK.