Google, Foxconn Working Together on Robotics
February 11, 2014 1:08 PM
Google wants a place to test its systems while Foxconn is looking to implement robotic systems
Foxconn -- the trading name for Hon Hai Precision Co. in China -- is often associated with Apple, since it assembles the Cupertino giant's devices like the iPhone and iPad. But as it turns out, Foxconn is a mutual acquaintance with Apple's most fierce competitor in the mobile OS realm.
The Wall Street Journal
, Google and Foxconn have been quietly working together since last year, but not on mobile products like smartphones and tablets -- rather, the two are focused on their respective robotics ventures, and how they can help one another achieve their goals.
In March 2013, Andy Rubin -- the Google executive responsible for the Android operating system --
as Android chief at Google. Since the resignation of that particular position, he's been working with Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page to start a new Google robotics group.
Rubin said that there are many potential applications for robotics, such as in manufacturing and logistics markets. Rubin would like to see
a robotics operating system
help with electronics assembly and compete with the likes of Amazon in the retail market.
The group is not looking to create robots for consumer use, much like its X lab that creates products like Google Glass and the autonomous vehicle. Instead, the robotics effort will have one main goal (at least for now): get products to the market faster and sell, sell, sell.
A partnership with Foxconn could help, considering it'd be a good testing environment for Google's new robotic operating system.
[SOURCE: X bit Labs]
Foxconn, on the other hand, is seeking help from Google in the robotics realm as well. For instance, Hon Hai Chairman Terry Gou said in 2011 that he wanted
300,000 robots installed
by the end of 2012 and a total of 1 million by 2014. However, in June 2012, it was apparent that those targets weren't going to happen. Instead, he hoped to have "monotonous" tasks eliminated through automation within a few years and fully automated plants in five to 10 years.
Foxconn's issues with installing the robots comes down to cost and technology. Foxconn would have to spend anywhere from $2.1 billion to over $10 billion for fully automated plants, depending on the type of robots used. Foxconn's traditional capital spending is below $3 billion.
Also, technology is ever changing, and keeping up with the production cycles of different products would take more time than having humans perform the same task. For instance, once you've finished stabilizing the process for one product, it's already time for a new product to roll down the line.
Rubin met with Gou in Taipei recently to discuss robotics, where Rubin showed off new automation technologies that could be helpful. Gou reportedly expressed excitement toward the new tech, possibly starting a new relationship that could be beneficial to both sides.
Foxconn is also looking to invest in research and technology locations in the U.S., and forming ties with another major U.S. tech company wouldn't be a bad idea in the midst of that venture.
The Wall Street Journal
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