When you call your business Boston Dynamics, you are essentially tying it to a certain geographic area. Despite being widely known the world over, the production of the Spot-maker still relies heavily on Massachusetts, even though its ownership has shifted to different places such as California, Japan, and most recently, South Korea.
The robotics company has its origin in Boston and is situated in Waltham, Massachusetts, which is about 12 miles away from the city centre.
Marc Raibert, the founder and chairman, stated in an interview at a TechCrunch City Spotlight event that he grew up in New Jersey, but had a bond to Boston since he was small as his mom grew up there. He expressed his fondness for Boston, saying he went to school there, stayed for 10 years, and was a faculty member of MIT for a decade before launching Boston Dynamics. While starting the organization, he held commitments to both it and MIT.
Recently Sam Adams has even more strongly linked with Boston Dynamics, which was highlighted when they put out a Super Bowl ad in 2022 that featured the Boston Cousin from Sam Adams in the headquarters of Boston Dynamics with a range of robotics.
Raibert departed from Cambridge for roughly ten years before establishing the Hyundai-supported Boston Dynamics AI Institute near Kendall Square. During this period, he was employed by Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
He recounts working at JPL when they had a replica of a Mars rover made during the 70s. Describing it in detail, he said it resembled a vehicle, with the 1970s Stanford arms and a joint that could move around. There were some cameras put in place, and various teams were put to the task.
Raibert isn’t the only one who is part of the departing generation. The loss of skilled talent, also known as “brain drain,” has been a troubling predicament for university towns like Boston, with many startup entrepreneurs and other specialized personnel choosing to move to locations such as the Silicon Valley and New York. Nevertheless, he explains that it hadn’t been a considerable problem when it involves drawing talent with Boston Dynamics.
Raibert states that a few folks from Boston Dynamics moved to the West Coast when they were part of Google, but most of them stayed there even after the company was acquired. However, Boston has its own appeal and is a great tech city, suggesting why many people don’t leave. Many schools are doing great things.
In August of 2019, Raibert and Boston Dynamics returned to their original focus area: research. This was a transition away from developing products, such as Spot and Handle, which had been in production until then. Hyundai is the only shareholder of the AI Institute at the moment, and there is no motivation to turn the research into a product for either the car company or the robotics company.
He stresses that it isn’t immediately apparent how long some methods will remain productive. He proposes bypassing products due to their building up to particular expectations that can be at odds with the desired goals. He feels that innovators should rely on those who understand the technical aspects required for invention of new ideas. I am proud to announce that we are not doing products. At the moment, nobody is trying to influence me.
Various choices exist regarding the Institute’s prospective patents and IP, including the potential to create its own subsidiary businesses.
He further states that they have developed a multiple-point strategy. He additionally notes that spinning off some products is seen as an effective way to pander to a consumer base, but to him, it is a reliable way to stop them from having an adverse effect on the institution.