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Hyundai takes 80-percent stake in terrifying Black Mirror robo-hound firm Boston Dynamics • The Register

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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 percent of the robot-maker. A SoftBank affiliate will keep the remaining 20 percent.

Boston Dynamics firm 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 maneuverable 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’ new robot, Stretch, assists in warehouse facilities and distribution centers.

However the company’s products have sometimes proven controversial, as in April 2021 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 said:

Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Euisun said back in October 2019 that the group aims to have 20 percent 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 percent 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. ®

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Power Capital takes majority interest in Terra Solar’s portfolio

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Terra Solar, a NovaUCD start-up founded in 2016, is giving up its sites in Wexford and Cork to Power Capital to develop solar farms.

Dublin-based company Power Capital Renewable Energy (PCRE) has announced plans to acquire majority interest in Terra Solar’s 400MW portfolio.

This will bring the company’s total solar assets to 840MW and boost its presence in the Irish solar power space.

A start-up that sprung out of NovaUCD, the University College Dublin accelerator, Terra Solar was founded by David Fewer and André Fernon in 2016. State-owned ESB was one of Terra Solar’s early investors, putting up €2.5m for a stake in the company.

Paris-based VC firm Omnes Capital will back the development of the solar sites over the next few years, which require around €200m to build out. Irish and international lenders will also back the development.

Power Capital director Peter Duff said that his company’s aim of becoming Ireland’s leading independent power producer has come a step closer with the deal.

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“Both Terra Solar and PCRE share common values and ambitions to help Ireland meet its 2030 targets and we are excited that Terra Solar chose us as a partner to bring these sites through construction,” he said.

The solar farm sites, located in Wexford and Cork, are a culmination of more than four years of engagement with local landowners, communities and planners, said Fewer.

“We will be retaining an equity stake in the developments and will be working intensively with all stakeholders over the coming few years to ensure that these sites are successfully constructed while equally continuing to grow our remaining development pipeline of 600MW.”

Justin Brown, co-founder of Power Capital, said that the company is currently in talks with other industry bodies about “increasing our foothold in the sector and we expect to see renewable energy being the dominant generator of electricity across Ireland within the next decade”.

Construction on the solar farms is set to begin in 2022 and the project is expected to be completed in the next five years.

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2021 iPhone photography awards – in pictures | Technology

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The 14th annual iPhone photography awards offer glimpses of beauty, hope and the endurance of the human spirit. Out of thousands of submissions, photojournalist Istvan Kerekes of Hungary was named the grand prize winner for his image Transylvanian Shepherds. In it, two rugged shepherds traverse an equally rugged industrial landscape, bearing a pair of lambs in their arms.

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With Alphabet’s legendary commitment to products, we can’t wait to see what its robotics biz Intrinsic achieves • The Register

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Alphabet today launched its latest tech startup, Intrinsic, which aims to build commercial software that will power industrial robots.

Intrinsic will focus on developing software control tools for industrial robots used in manufacturing, we’re told. Its pitch is that the days of humans having to manually program and adjust a robot’s every move are over, and that mechanical bots should be more autonomous and smart, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence and leaps in training techniques.

This could make robots easier to direct – give them a task, and they’ll figure out the specifics – and more efficient – the AI can work out the best way to achieve its goal.

“Over the last few years, our team has been exploring how to give industrial robots the ability to sense, learn, and automatically make adjustments as they’re completing tasks, so they work in a wider range of settings and applications,” said CEO Wendy Tan White.

“Working in collaboration with teams across Alphabet, and with our partners in real-world manufacturing settings, we’ve been testing software that uses techniques like automated perception, deep learning, reinforcement learning, motion planning, simulation, and force control.”

Tan White – a British entrepreneur and investor who was made an MBE by the Queen in 2016 for her services to the tech industry – will leave her role as vice president of X, Alphabet’s moonshot R&D lab, to concentrate on Intrinsic.

She earlier co-founded and was CEO of website-building biz Moonfruit, and helped multiple early-stage companies get up and running as a general partner at Entrepreneur First, a tech accelerator. She is also a board trustee of the UK’s Alan Turing Institute, and member of Blighty’s Digital Economic Council.

“I loved the role I played in creating platforms that inspired the imagination and entrepreneurship of people all over the world, and I’ve recently stepped into a similar opportunity: I’m delighted to share that I’m now leading Intrinsic, a new Alphabet company,” she said.

The new outfit is another venture to emerge from Google-parent Alphabet’s X labs, along with Waymo, the self-driving car startup; and Verily, a biotech biz. ®

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