Hyundai Motor Group bought a controlling stake in Boston Dynamics for US$800 million in 2020, impressed by the potential of its range of world-leading humanoid, quadruped and other robots. It is now investing half of that again in AI development.

Hyundai is establishing a new Boston Dynamics AI Institute, headquartered in the Kendall Square research district in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The new facility will be a premier research organization dedicated to “solving the most important and difficult challenges facing the creation of advanced robots,” taking an academic-meets-commercial-lab approach.

The Institute’s main research areas will be athletic AI, organic hardware design … and yes, cognitive AI. There will also be research in the less technical – but very important – areas of ethics and politics 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 flexible, insightful and safer than anything that exists today,” said Mark Reibert, who founded Boston Dynamics in 1992 as spinoff of MIT and who will serve as executive director of the new institute. “The Institute’s unique structure—top talent focused on fundamental solutions with sustainable funding and excellent technical support—will help us create robots that are easier to use, more productive, capable of performing a greater variety of tasks and who work more safely with people.”

The newest Atlas robot (second from left) has joined the Boston Dynamics family of robots

Boston Dynamics

Although they may look quite different, self-driving cars can also be thought of as autonomous robots, and Hyundai is also investing in a separate Global Software Center focused on autonomous driving and mobility platforms. There may be areas where the two new units intersect.

Meanwhile, Boston Dynamics continues to work on commercial applications for its multi-functional Spot robot dog, as well as its newer Stretch robot, a mesmerizing mobile platform designed around box handling and warehouse work.

Stretch is the company's first purpose-built robot designed for commercial use
Stretch is the company’s first purpose-built robot designed for commercial use

Boston Dynamics

The real world is a significantly harsher scene than a YouTube video, and we’re not left with the impression that Boston Dynamic’s products set the world on fire the way their videos do. But Hyundai has redoubled its commitment, and AI is sure to be a critical field in general-purpose robotics, so there’s every chance this new institute will keep Boston Dynamics at the forefront of the field for years or decades to come.

source: Boston Dynamics AI Institute

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