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SoftBank Buys Robotics Leader Boston Dynamics from Alphabet

Japanese internet, solar and technology company SoftBank Group Corp. is buying robotics pioneer Boston Dynamics from Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent.

Terms of the deal, announced Friday, including when it might close, were not disclosed.

Tokyo-based SoftBank, which offers the chatty childlike Pepper companion robot, said the purchase underlines how robotics is a key part of its business.

Boston Dynamics makes various robots, including Big Dog and Spot [pictured above], which are complex machines that walk and trot on four legs. Another is Atlas, which walks on two legs like a human. Atlas has arms and can open doors and lift items. Some were designed for military purposes.

Under Friday’s deal, SoftBank is also buying from Alphabet a company called Schaft that develops biped robots. Schaft’s roots are in a research lab at the University of Tokyo.

Pepper has expressive arms but wheels for legs and does little more than sing songs and answer basic questions, and can’t do any heavy lifting. Often it fails to understand even simple speech and will keep asking you to repeat sentences.

Speculation had been growing recently that Google might want to sell Boston Dynamics. Alphabet said it remains committed to robotics, such as connecting human-like motor skills, including hand-eye coordination, to machines so they can process images, speech, text and draw pictures.

It is also interested in research on helping robots learn from what they “experience,” Alphabet said in a statement.

“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,” it said.

SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son said robots will help solve problems that have been beyond human capabilities.

“Smart robotics are going to be a key driver of the next stage of the Information Revolution,” he said.

“I am thrilled to welcome them to…


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