Google's collaboration with Foxconn sheds light on robotics ambitions

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2014
According to a report on Tuesday, Google's Andy Rubin and Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou have been discussing cutting edge robotics technology, including an operating system built to run manufacturing machines.

Rubin
Former Android chief and current head of Google's robotics arm Andy Rubin.


Citing sources familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal reports Rubin and Gou have been collaborating on Google's robotics plans since late last year. Among the topics of discussion is a robotics operating system that could do for manufacturing what Android has done to mobile phones.

Heading the initiative is former Android chief Rubin, who was tapped to run Google's newly formed robotics team late last year. The Internet search giant is eyeing an entry into automated manufacturing and could even compete in the retail segment against industry titan Amazon, sources said.

The publication went on to say Rubin asked Gou for help in integrating the technology of a recently purchased robotics firm. Google acquired eight such companies in 2013, including the high-profile purchase of U.S. defense contractor Boston Dynamics, but until now not much was known of what the company planned to do with the robotics tech.

While a formal partnership is far from solidified, the WSJ said Foxconn's expertise in manufacturing makes it an optimal testing ground for Google's advanced robotics initiatives.

For Foxconn, the world's largest electronics manufacturer and major Apple supplier, working with Google could be the next step in a push toward production facility automation. The Taiwan-based firm is looking to roll out robots in its plants to combat rising Chinese labor costs and fallout from workplace disputes.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 73
    asciiascii Posts: 5,699member
    Imagine how cheaply they could produce Android phones if they can get the production process automatised? Apple needs to not let them get too far ahead on this stuff.
  • Reply 2 of 73

    I actually think that if anyone should feel threatened by this, it's actually these people, not Apple.

  • Reply 3 of 73
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Digital_Guy View Post

     

    I actually think that if anyone should feel threatened by this, it's actually these people, not Apple.


     

    What the hell for? Honda has decades of lead experience in this field.

  • Reply 4 of 73
    gtrgtr Posts: 3,231member
    Future News Headline:

    "Foxconn to be investigated for employing suspected outside-warranty workers"
  • Reply 5 of 73
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post

     

     

    What the hell for? Honda has decades of lead experience in this field.


     

    But what kind of press have their efforts generated? Who (with the exception of an educated few) has even heard of Asimo? Regardless of the quality of work it generates, anything that Google does easily garners more press and attention.

  • Reply 6 of 73
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post

     

     

    What the hell for? Honda has decades of lead experience in this field.


    While Honda has done impressive and interesting work, can you make a convincing case that they are the *lead* company in this area? Lest we forget, Boston Dynamics is now part of Google.

  • Reply 7 of 73

    It is a little surprising that Google is talking to Foxconn so early. Foxconn is NOT an expert in robotics and automation. They are a customer or user. Google does not have products to sell them yet. On the other hand, such a discussion would make sense if Google is contemplating a system that integrates an entire factory to automate/control material flow. In that case, this goes far beyond robotics.

  • Reply 8 of 73
    iqatedoiqatedo Posts: 1,545member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    According to a report on Tuesday, Google's Andy Rubin...

     

    ...Among the topics of discussion is a robotics operating system that could do for manufacturing what Android has done to mobile phones...


     

    Great (sigh), robots running amok! 

  • Reply 9 of 73
    I hate financial people, but sometimes their point of view helps to analyze things.

    From a financial point of view, automation consists in replacing labor force by capital. The interest of the operation depends on the respective cost of each term of the equation.
  • Reply 10 of 73
    To be honest i'm not really into this $hit, what waste of money
  • Reply 11 of 73
    rolyroly Posts: 62member
    Who cares what Google is doing with robotics? I don't see why this is relevant news for an Apple fan site.
  • Reply 12 of 73
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    roly wrote: »
    Who cares what Google is doing with robotics? I don't see why this is relevant news for an Apple fan site.
    Me neither. But I must say Google does a good job of leaking stuff to get the tech press all a buzz. Like when they announced they were working on a "smart" contact lens and the tech press jumped on it. But then we find out it's at least 5 years before something like that could come to market.
  • Reply 13 of 73
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post

     

     

    What the hell for? Honda has decades of lead experience in this field.


    Exactly.  This field is not new nor is Google breaking new ground with its technology.

    They needed to focus on a market and develop this stuff in-house, and first and foremost, make it way better than anything else out there.

     

    I think Google has made another huge mistake probably because some of its big politician share holders made it go into the field to rescue their old dying corporate holdings.  It looks like they bought everything (nothing developed in-house) and are now trying to integrate everything.  This could turn into a big useless mess of somebody's pipe dream.  A lot of money spent on useless toys with nothing to show for it.

     

    Time will tell.

  • Reply 14 of 73
    For anyone who is going to write, "Apple should...", please pause for a moment. This is a long response.

    Apple IS already working with Foxconn in the robotics manufacturing area. Also, Apple has hired many ex-Segway employees including John Morrell, as reported by Apple Insider last year... http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/04/02/apples-hiring-of-ex-segway-robotics-expert-fuels-speculation-of-fantastic-future-products.

    Anyone remember reading this article way back in 2011?

    Additionally, Gou noted that at the present time the company utilizes 10,000 robots, a number that will rise to 300,000 next year and to one million in three years. Foxconn, who currently employs 1.2 million people, is the largest manufacturer of computer components in the world, assembling products for numerous tech giants, including Apple and Sony.

    http://appleinsider.com/articles/11/07/31/foxconn_to_substitute_workers_with_1_million_robots_in_3_years.html
    ______________________________

    Where I currently live...

    http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/11/22/apple-partner-foxconn-to-invest-40m-in-robots-research-in-pennsylvania
    ______________________________

    Thanks to Patently Apple, here are snippets and links to the Apple/Foxconn robotic manufacturing collaboration...

    On October 17, 2013, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals that their 2012 ultrathin iMac was manufactured by using a very sophisticated robotic force. The insane design precision didn't come about by accident. Apple's latest patent application describes a robotic solution created by Apple for the iMac and beyond. Apple's iMac webpage as noted above states that Apple re-imagined everything, re-engineered everything about the iMac and today's patent filing proves that out. This is Apple's second robotic invention. Apple's first design was for a robotic arm for manufacturing the iPhone that we covered back in January. Lastly, we present you with a secondary patent published today titled "Cosmetic Defect Reduction in Anodized Parts." It's Apple's new "finishing" bath designed to degrease, de-smut, anodize and chemically polish the iMac and other future iDevices until they reflect Apple's aesthetically insane finish so that they can give it their official stamp of approval: Designed by Apple in California.

    http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2013/10/apple-reveals-new-laser-manufacturing-process-for-the-imac.html
    ______________________________

    In late January Patently Apple reported that production of Apple' iPhone 5 at Hon Hai had begun to utilize a robotic workforce. Hon Hai is aiming to have more than a million robots on their production line over the next few years covering everything from precision work right down to finishing work like polishing. Today, the US Patent and Trademark Office revealed Apple's patent application for an invention relating to a robotic arm designed for the finishing process of products such as the iPhone. Today's patent report closes by presenting you with a wide range of other patent filings that were published today covering such matters as the MagSafe 2 connector and Apple's Internal LCD display testing methodology.

    http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2013/02/apple-invents-new-robotic-arm-finishing-system-for-iphone.html
    ______________________________

    Here is a link from Computer World...

    http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9234477/A_U.S._Apple_factory_may_be_robot_city?taxonomyId=163&pageNumber=1

    With YouTube video of the MacBook Pro unibody manufacturing process...


    ______________________________

    I supplied this Bloomberg link because it contains video that ties all of the information above in a video. The analyst actually gets credit for not being uninformed before talking!

    Anyone remember the $10.5 billion allocation for 2014?!?

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-13/apple-s-10-5b-on-robots-to-lasers-shores-up-supply-chain.html
    ______________________________

    I think Apple is already where Google is trying to go with this Foxconn proposal.

    I think Apple most likely is using an embedded form of the Mac OS to run its robotic manufacturing processes.

    Apple does not necessarily have to buy robotics companies to get involved in robotic manufacturing. We have seen Apple's robotic manufacturing prowess for years in video after video after video.

    Last June's Mac Pro video showed us how that device would be manufactured with robots in Texas.

    Lastly, keep in mind that Apple designs the machines used to build its products, has manufacturers make the machines, and buys the machines for its suppliers to use in manufacturing Apple products based on Apple designs.

    Other than actually building machines itself, Apple has nearly all parts of the manufacturing process chain covered.
  • Reply 15 of 73
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Roly View Post



    Who cares what Google is doing with robotics? I don't see why this is relevant news for an Apple fan site.

     

    Of course it is:  http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/11/13/apple-investing-record-105-billion-on-supply-chain-robots-machinery

     

    Google is trying to compete in manufacturing with Apple, which already has a huge lead.

     

    People, we are entering in to some exciting times in feild of manufacturing.

  • Reply 16 of 73

    You know what I just realized? The words "A Google company" were obviously cropped out of this logo.

     

    </jk>

  • Reply 17 of 73
    tylerk36tylerk36 Posts: 1,037member
    Rise of the machines. Judgement day.
  • Reply 18 of 73
    mknoppmknopp Posts: 257member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Digital_Guy View Post

     

     

    But what kind of press have their efforts generated? Who (with the exception of an educated few) has even heard of Asimo? Regardless of the quality of work it generates, anything that Google does easily garners more press and attention.


     

    My thesis was in the design of a distributed control system for a bipedal walking robot and after that I worked for half a decade in automated manufacturing. So, I am one of the educated few, and I have to tell you right now that the type of robot that Asimo is and the type of robot that they are showing are not really that cutting edge in robotics, and walking robots have practically zero to do with manufacturing robots.

     

    As for garnering and generating press and attention, when the average consumer starts buying robots that will matter. Until then, well, the people who actually buy robots know what is going on and pay attention to who they need to pay attention to. And I can tell you, Google isn't anyone that anybody is going to pay attention to unless they want to fund some research at universities.

     

    As a person who has used industrial robots I can tell you that there is absolutely no way that I would use a robot controlled by a Google OS without a TON of trials. I don't think people realize what sort of leap this is. This isn't like programming an OS for a smartphone or a server running a search algorithm. I am not being at all hyperbolic when I say that if a manufacturing robot's OS has a bug it could kill someone and easily cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. Therefore, this software is slow to update and tested to death. That is pretty much the antithesis of Google's, and to be honest pretty much every consumer facing company's, mentality. Google and Apple and Microsoft are driven by coming out with something new and shiny every cycle to keep the mass's attention, if it isn't completely stable, well that is why they have point releases. In the world of manufacturing the pace is much slower and you don't get the luxury of making it stable in a point release.

     

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by acatomic View Post

     

     

    Of course it is:  http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/11/13/apple-investing-record-105-billion-on-supply-chain-robots-machinery

     

    Google is trying to compete in manufacturing with Apple, which already has a huge lead.

     

    People, we are entering in to some exciting times in feild of manufacturing.


     

    I predict that this is going to do almost completely ZERO in manufacturing. Other than dumping a lot of money into this I don't see Apple or Google doing anything truly groundbreaking in this field. It is just to contrary to their entire corporate mentality. Mechanically, manufacturing robotics have been mature for a decade or two now, it is basically in the commodity phase. They are a few decades behind in the development of a control OS and software, which as I stated above does not work like a consumer OS. Honestly, I am at a loss to figure out exactly what either Apple or Google is going to do to vastly improve field of industrial robotics. Companies like Fanuc have made such great strides in the fields of robotic vision and force feedback that they have a robot that can insert a mechanical pencil's lead into the end of the pencil. I can't remember the name of the company now, but half a decade ago a Japanese industrial robotic's manufacturer released the first industrial robot certified to work next to a person without a safety cage or light curtain, 99% of all industrial robots would kill you without even slowing down.

  • Reply 19 of 73
    I believe Andy Rubin's goal is the first "general use" robotic line worker. In other words, just bring in the robot, show it what to do in a natural way and it will repeat the assignment in an efficient way. This will in turn lead to robot workers and assistants in every facet of society.
  • Reply 20 of 73
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,382member
    For anyone who is going to write, "Apple should...", please pause for a moment. This is a long response.

    Apple IS already working with Foxconn in the robotics manufacturing area. Also, Apple has hired many ex-Segway employees including John Morrell, as reported by Apple Insider last year... http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/04/02/apples-hiring-of-ex-segway-robotics-expert-fuels-speculation-of-fantastic-future-products.

    Anyone remember reading this article way back in 2011?

    Additionally, Gou noted that at the present time the company utilizes 10,000 robots, a number that will rise to 300,000 next year and to one million in three years. Foxconn, who currently employs 1.2 million people, is the largest manufacturer of computer components in the world, assembling products for numerous tech giants, including Apple and Sony.

    http://appleinsider.com/articles/11/07/31/foxconn_to_substitute_workers_with_1_million_robots_in_3_years.html
    ______________________________

    Where I currently live...

    http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/11/22/apple-partner-foxconn-to-invest-40m-in-robots-research-in-pennsylvania
    ______________________________

    Thanks to Patently Apple, here are snippets and links to the Apple/Foxconn robotic manufacturing collaboration...

    On October 17, 2013, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals that their 2012 ultrathin iMac was manufactured by using a very sophisticated robotic force. The insane design precision didn't come about by accident. Apple's latest patent application describes a robotic solution created by Apple for the iMac and beyond. Apple's iMac webpage as noted above states that Apple re-imagined everything, re-engineered everything about the iMac and today's patent filing proves that out. This is Apple's second robotic invention. Apple's first design was for a robotic arm for manufacturing the iPhone that we covered back in January. Lastly, we present you with a secondary patent published today titled "Cosmetic Defect Reduction in Anodized Parts." It's Apple's new "finishing" bath designed to degrease, de-smut, anodize and chemically polish the iMac and other future iDevices until they reflect Apple's aesthetically insane finish so that they can give it their official stamp of approval: Designed by Apple in California.

    http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2013/10/apple-reveals-new-laser-manufacturing-process-for-the-imac.html
    ______________________________

    In late January Patently Apple reported that production of Apple' iPhone 5 at Hon Hai had begun to utilize a robotic workforce. Hon Hai is aiming to have more than a million robots on their production line over the next few years covering everything from precision work right down to finishing work like polishing. Today, the US Patent and Trademark Office revealed Apple's patent application for an invention relating to a robotic arm designed for the finishing process of products such as the iPhone. Today's patent report closes by presenting you with a wide range of other patent filings that were published today covering such matters as the MagSafe 2 connector and Apple's Internal LCD display testing methodology.

    http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2013/02/apple-invents-new-robotic-arm-finishing-system-for-iphone.html
    ______________________________

    Here is a link from Computer World...

    http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9234477/A_U.S._Apple_factory_may_be_robot_city?taxonomyId=163&pageNumber=1

    With YouTube video of the MacBook Pro unibody manufacturing process...


    ______________________________

    I supplied this Bloomberg link because it contains video that ties all of the information above in a video. The analyst actually gets credit for not being uninformed before talking!

    Anyone remember the $10.5 billion allocation for 2014?!?

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-13/apple-s-10-5b-on-robots-to-lasers-shores-up-supply-chain.html
    ______________________________

    I think Apple is already where Google is trying to go with this Foxconn proposal.

    I think Apple most likely is using an embedded form of the Mac OS to run its robotic manufacturing processes.

    Apple does not necessarily have to buy robotics companies to get involved in robotic manufacturing. We have seen Apple's robotic manufacturing prowess for years in video after video after video.

    Last June's Mac Pro video showed us how that device would be manufactured with robots in Texas.

    Lastly, keep in mind that Apple designs the machines used to build its products, has manufacturers make the machines, and buys the machines for its suppliers to use in manufacturing Apple products based on Apple designs.

    Other than actually building machines itself, Apple has nearly all parts of the manufacturing process chain covered.

    Thank you for the work in your post. Very interesting stuff there.

    Apple is far further into this than I had any idea of. The thing that strikes me is Apple are not looking as though they intend to sell this technology in anyway, rather use it in house.

    Google on the other hand will want to make money on all and everything they touch.

    Also, what's the betting they will be calling at least one line of robots Cylons? :\
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