BMW Testing Humanoid Robots, Giving ‘I, Robot’ Vibes
It’s like a moment straight from a sci-fi movie. BMW is testing general-purpose humanoid robots at a plant in South Carolina. A California-based AI robotics company Figure has announced a new commercial agreement with BMW Manufacturing.
According to the announcement, the robots “enable the automation of difficult, unsafe, or tedious tasks throughout the manufacturing process.” In their news release, the companies say these robots will allow “employees to focus on skills and processes that cannot be automated, as well as continuous improvement in production efficiency and safety.”
The BMW Manufacturing facility in South Carolina, the company’s sole US-based plant, assembles approximately 1,500 X-series and XM-series vehicles daily. Currently employing around 11,000 people, it stands as the largest automotive exporter in the US by value, having an export value of $9.6 billion.
How many humanoid robots will there be?
The specific number of Figure’s humanoids and the tasks they will do have yet to be disclosed by both companies. However, Figure CEO Brett Adcock, in a statement to Reuters, indicated that the partnership will commence with “small quantities” and may expand based on performance outcomes. The Reuters report outlines a deployment timeline, allowing Figure to train the robots for specific tasks. Training and integration into BMW’s processes could take 12 to 24 months, depending on identified uses.
Companies such as Honda and Hyundai have been actively involved in the progress of walking robots. Efforts to incorporate these robots into the real world are increasing, too. Tesla revealed the second generation of its Optimus robot in December, while Amazon is currently testing Agility Robotics’ “Digit” robot in its US warehouses.
Just last week Figure 01 learned how to make coffee using an end-to-end AI system— Figure (@Figure_robot) January 18, 2024
We are excited to be introducing industry leading AI to the automotive sectorpic.twitter.com/DNAZWnaYK3
On Jan. 18, the Figure company shared a video on social media with the robot. It highlights how the humanoid robot learned how to make coffee using an “end-to-end AI system.” Some people left comments comparing the robot to Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. Though many would argue that it has more of an I, Robot vibe. Let’’s hope it doesn’t go that route.