Hyundai takes 80 per cent stake in terrifying Black Mirror robo-hound firm Boston Dynamics

Korean giant sees bots as helping it become ‘Smart Mobility Solutions Provider’


Hyundai has acquired a controlling interest in US robotics company Boston Dynamics from Softbank for US$880M.

The deal has been in the works since December 2020 when the board of directors at three Hyundai affiliates approved the purchase that would give them a combined 80 per cent of the robot maker. A SoftBank affiliate will keep the remaining 20 per cent.

Boston Dynamics was founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology boffins in 1992. It’s since been owned by Google and Softbank.

The company’s agile creations are known for doing impressive gymnastics tricks and its manoeuvrable dog-like robot called Spot featured in a creepy Black Mirror episode.

Spot went on sale in June of 2020 and, in addition to enlivening dystopian television dramas, has been deployed by across the utilities sector, construction, manufacturing, and the resources industry. Boston Dynamics’ latest robot, Stretch, assists in warehouse facilities and distribution centres.

However, the company’s products have sometimes proven controversial — as in April 2021 when the New York Police Department faced criticism for deploying a Boston Dynamics robot canine called Digidog, on grounds that it was scary and a privacy invasion. New York’s finest quickly terminated its US$94,000 contract with Boston Dynamics as a result.

Hyundai wants to use Boston Dynamics’ tech in less-confronting roles as part of its plan to become a “Smart Mobility Solutions Provider”.

The auto-maker’s canned statement read:

In the field of robotics, the Group aims to develop advanced technologies that enhance people’s lives and promote safety, thereby realizing the progress for humanity.

Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Euisun said back in October 2019 that the group aims to have 20 per cent of its business in robotics — a goal this acquisition will bolster. Half of Hyundai’s business will remain focused on vehicle manufacturing, with the remaining 30 per cent aimed at “urban air mobility”.

A promotional video (see below) announcing the acquisition showcases Boston Dynamics’ technology serving as medical mobility devices, guide dogs for the visually impaired, medical assistants and dance partners — all applications likely to be better received publicly than Spot’s appearance in Black Mirror or on the mean streets of New York City. ®

Youtube Video

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Deepfake attacks can easily trick live facial recognition systems online
    Plus: Next PyTorch release will support Apple GPUs so devs can train neural networks on their own laptops

    In brief Miscreants can easily steal someone else's identity by tricking live facial recognition software using deepfakes, according to a new report.

    Sensity AI, a startup focused on tackling identity fraud, carried out a series of pretend attacks. Engineers scanned the image of someone from an ID card, and mapped their likeness onto another person's face. Sensity then tested whether they could breach live facial recognition systems by tricking them into believing the pretend attacker is a real user.

    So-called "liveness tests" try to authenticate identities in real-time, relying on images or video streams from cameras like face recognition used to unlock mobile phones, for example. Nine out of ten vendors failed Sensity's live deepfake attacks.

    Continue reading
  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022