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February 12, 2014

Google works with Foxconn to create a new generation of factory manufacturing robots

Google appears to be building a "robotic operating system for manufacturers," with Foxconn serving as a testbed. Foxconn has been working with former Android executive Andy Rubin since last year to carry out the U.S. company’s vision for robotics. To speed up robot deployment at its own factories, Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou met with Rubin in Taipei recently and they discussed new robotic technologies, they said. At the meeting, Gou expressed excitement over new automation technologies demonstrated by Rubin, they said. Rubin also asked Gou to help integrate a technology company that Google is acquiring as Foxconn’s strength lies in mechanical engineering.

The cooperation comes as Foxconn has been striving to accelerate automation efforts at its factories amid challenges of rising labor costs and workplace disputes in China, where it has more than a million workers. Foxconn’s chairman has reiterated his ambitions to build factories with robots in recent years as the company seeks to transform itself into a high-tech manufacturer focusing on high-margin, capital-intensive products such as automobile and medical equipment.

Analysts said the partnership makes sense as Foxconn, the world’s largest contract manufacturer of electronics devices, can provide Google the best testing ground for its new robotics technology. They said Google is expected to build a new robotic operating system for manufacturers, just like the Android operating system for mobile computing devices. A successful robotics operating system would further strengthen Google’s position in the technology industry.

“Foxconn needs Google’s help to step up automation at its factories as the company has the lowest sales per employee among the contract makers, given its large workforce,” said Wanli Wang, an analyst at CIMB Securities



SOURCES - Wall Street Journal


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