The Hyundai Motor Group bought a controlling share in Boston Dynamics for US$800 million back in 2020, impressed by the potential of its array of world-leading humanoid, quadrupedal and other robots. Now it’s investing half that again to develop AI.
Hyundai is founding a new Boston Dynamics AI Institute, headquartered in the Kendall Square research precinct in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The new facility will be a research-first organization dedicated to “solving the most important and difficult challenges facing the creation of advanced robots,” taking an academia-meets-the-commercial-lab approach.
The Institute’s core research areas will be athletic AI, organic hardware design … and yes, cognitive AI. There will also be research into the less-technical – but very important – areas of ethics and policy, as they intersect with this highly-charged space.
“Our mission is to create future generations of advanced robots and intelligent machines that are smarter, more agile, perceptive and safer than anything that exists today,” said Marc Raibert, who founded Boston Dynamics back in 1992 as an MIT spinoff, and who will serve as executive director of the new Institute. “The unique structure of the Institute – top talent focused on fundamental solutions with sustained funding and excellent technical support – will help us create robots that are easier to use, more productive, able to perform a wider variety of tasks, and that are safer working with people.”
While they may look quite different, self-driving cars can very much be viewed as autonomous robots as well, and Hyundai is also investing in a separate Global Software Center, focused on autonomous driving and mobility platforms. There may well be areas where the two new entities may intersect.
Meanwhile, Boston Dynamics continues to work on commercial applications for its versatile Spot robot dog, as well as its more recent Stretch robot, a mesmerizing mobile platform developed around box handling and warehouse work.
The real world is a significantly harsher stage than a YouTube video, and we don’t get the impression that Boston Dynamic’s products are setting the world alight the way their videos have. But Hyundai has doubled down on its commitment, and AI will certainly be a critical field in the general-purpose robotics field, so there’s every chance this new Institute could keep Boston Dynamics out in front of the field for years, or decades, to come.
Source: Boston Dynamics AI Institute