Alphabet to sell Boston Dynamics to SoftBank

Alphabet Inc, the owner of Google, has agreed to sell its robotics firm Boston Dynamics to Japanese telecommunications and technology company SoftBank, a subsidiary of Japan's SoftBank Group Corp.

SoftBank said it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire robotics pioneer Boston Dynamics from Alphabet Inc, adding that the transaction aligns with SoftBank's investments in paradigm-shifting technologies and its vision of catalysing the next wave of smart robotics.

Neither SoftBank, nor Alphabet disclosed the terms of the transaction.

As part of the transaction with Alphabet, SoftBank will also acquire Japanese bipedal robotics company Schaft, a company constituted in 2012 in the JSK Robotics Laboratory at the University of Tokyo, by Yuto Nakanishi, Junichi Urata, Narito Suzuki and Koichi Nishiwaki.

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals.

''We at Boston Dynamics are excited to be part of SoftBank's bold vision and its position creating the next technology revolution, and we share SoftBank's belief that advances in technology should be for the benefit of humanity. We look forward to working with SoftBank in our mission to push the boundaries of what advanced robots can do and to create useful applications in a smarter and more connected world,'' Marc Raibert, CEO and founder of Boston Dynamics, said.

''Today, there are many issues we still cannot solve by ourselves with human capabilities. 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,'' Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO of SoftBank Group Corp, said.

Alphabet's intentions to sell Boston Dynamics first surfaced in March 2016, about two years after Android co-founder Andy Rubin left Google, where he spearheaded a series of prominent robotics acquisitions, most prominently Boston Dynamics.

That division, known internally as Replicant, was disbanded after Rubin's departure, leaving the future of Boston Dynamics and the other robot companies in a flux.

The sale of high-profile Boston Dynamics signals Alphabet's active involvement in  robotics.

Boston Dynamics, a 25-year-old company originally spun out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has gained a worldwide reputation as a leader in robotics engineering for its development of some of the world's most advanced robots, such as BigDog, Atlas, Spot and Handle.

The company is a leader in the design, development and field testing of advanced robots that have agility, dexterity, perception and intelligence.

It has received funding from the US government's Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, and it pioneered techniques for helping robots maneuver real-world environments and adapt to complex changes in terrain.

Its most recent development, shown off in a leaked video in February, is a jumping unit named Handle that combines both wheels and legs into a ''nightmare-inducing robot'' capable of advanced aerial maneuvers and obstacle avoidance.

Schaft is a global leader in the field of humanoid bipedal robots. The company's founders emerged from the renowned JSK Robotics Laboratory within the University of Tokyo. Schaft is driven by its vision of a near future society where bipedal robots perform critical industrial and service tasks.