The deal values Boston Dynamics at $1.1 billion, according to a Hyundai press release, and sees Hyundai assume an 80 percent controlling stake in the robot company. Softbank will retain a 20 percent stake. Before the Softbank acquisition in 2017, the company was previously owned by Google's parent company Alphabet.
It is hard to tell what Hyundai wants out of Boston Dynamics from the press release, which is laden with technobabble. Robots in car manufacturing are nothing new, but Hyundai says the acquisition is "another major step toward its strategic transformation into a Smart Mobility Solution Provider" such as "autonomous driving, artificial intelligence (AI), Urban Air Mobility (UAM), smart factories and robots," which seems to speak to the company's ambitions beyond car manufacturing. Hyundai says it hopes to "develop advanced technologies that enhance people's lives and promote safety, thereby realizing the progress for humanity."
Apparently, the "progress of humanity" means a lot less of it. To celebrate the purchase, Hyundai released a bizarre hype video featuring a seeing-eye robot dog, a nurse robot dog with a tablet mounted on its head that allows the patient to nod at a doctor who is somewhere else, and a teen dancing with a robot in the street. In other words, Hyundai envisions a lonely future in which social cohesion between humans has broken down and robots are our only friends. That's all bad enough, but why anyone would want a seeing eye robot dog instead of a real dog is beyond comprehension.
What's important to remember is that some of Boston Dynamics' robot dogs' most notable implementations are as guard dogs at corporate headquarters, as police tools, and as dystopian patrollers of homeless encampments. This current reality is not presented in the advertising video.