could send Spot to an area under construction, where the Spot is able to take 360-degree photos of every corner of the scene using virtual reality software.
How is SoftBank going to unleash value that Google didn’t, through Boston Dynamics and Schaft?
Softbank has some history in Robotics, especially Humanoid robots, which is what Boston Dynamics and Schaft are experts at.
Since 2013, they own a Robotics company called Aldebaran Robotics, which originally started in France.
Aldebaran has been building robots since 2005 and has built the , which is one of the very few commercially available humanoid robots in the market.
The Nao is very popular among researchers as it’s a really robust and all-inclusive robot system. In fact humanoid robotics competitions like RoboCup (which aims to build a 11 robot soccer team that can defeat the soccer world champions in 2050) have that use Nao’s exclusively.
Also their recent product – the Pepper robot is quite a commercial robot which has sold in the thousands.
Their next major product, the Romeo, is a 140cm tall humanoid robot. Compared to the 60cm Nao, the Romeo is a design which has many complications and is much harder to design and stabilise. Hence it is more of a and is not directly sold now, unlike the other 2 products.
Given these products, and their success in the market(for the former 2), it is evident that Softbank has the ability to build and commercialise robots.
Boston dynamics on the other hand is a research powerhouse. Especially in the field of legged robotics. Previously a DARPA funded company, it has built robots which are really stable and literally, “superhuman”. Their 4-legged series of dogs and their biped humanoids are really very stable platforms which have a huge potential. Infact, the ATLAS robot built by Boston Dynamics was used in the DARPA Robotics Challenge by many teams. Their demonstrating these robots are not only enough to inspire and awe the roboticists, but also develop fear in the general public at the same time.
Schaft was the winner at the DARPA robotics challenge trials held in 2013. And they were ahead by a huge margin from the team which finished second. Google then bought the team(it had also bought the team which one previous DARPA challenge on self-driving vehicles) and withdrew them from DRC, because of which they didn’t participate in the DRC finals in 2015. But their robot was really well built and performed much better than the others.
When Google acquired Boston Dynamics, it was trying to expand it’s robotics skillset. Along with Boston Dynamics there have been many robotics companies which have been acquired and sold/shutdown by Google, especially around that time. But now, the market is really different from Google’s perspective, as evident by this divestment.
Now, things can go in many ways in acquisitions, but in the ideal scenario, when you add Softbank(commercialising skills) and Boston Dynamics and Schaft(Really stable robots, innovative designs, state of the art IP) the group has a lot of potential to change the Robotics landscape.
Softbank can also use the expertise of Boston Dynamics and Schaft to improve and release their Romeo. They can also commercialise many of Boston Dynamics robots(Handle, Spot, SpotMini, Atlas etc).
The possibilities are plenty. Lets wait and watch, and also hope we see a commercial SpotMini/LittleDog soon 🙂 !