aldebaran nao humanoid robot

UPDATE March 27, 2012: According to a forum message by Bastien Parent, head of communication at Aldebaran Robotics,the Financial Times report on Aldebaran's sale contains incorrect information. It's not clear what part of the report is incorrect. Parent wrote that when Aldebaran has concrete things to report, it will do so, "but this is not the case today." 

In news that will send a ripple of excitement through the robotics community, French robot maker Aldebaran has reportedly sold a majority stake in the business for about US $100 million.

The Financial Timesreports that the buyer, Japan's Softbank, will provide the financial backing Aldebaran needs to "bring robots into the mainstream consumer market." From the FT story:

Softbank is understood to have paid about $100m for a more than 80 per cent stake in the business, and will invest another $40m to $50m to accelerate development. Softbank bought out existing shareholders in the company, including Intel Capital, CDC Innovation, iSource and Crédit Agricole Private Equity. Intel Capital had only recently become an investor, in a $13m fundraising round last summer.

Although Softbank has not previously been involved in robotics, Masayoshi Son, the company’s chief executive, is interested in addressing a number of societal problems, for example backing the development of green energy in Japan. Securing care for an ageing population is in line with this.

This is huge news for Aldebaran, famous for its advanced humanoidrobots, but an even bigger deal for the robotics field, which has long been trying to prove to investors that there's money to be made in robots. Though industrial robotics is a multibillion dollar sector, consumer and service robotics remains relatively small markets. Yes, there's been some VC activity, but nothing compared to other industries. Hopefully the Aldebaran deal will show investors that robots can not only be cool but profitable too.

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
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In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

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