Google appears to be making the next step in its quest for robotics domination. Recently, Former Android chief Andy Rubin switched roles to lead Google's robotics division, and the company acquired eight robotics companies last year—including, most recently, Boston Dynamics, which has done work for DARPA and the Pentagon. Now Google appears to be building a "robotic operating system for manufacturers," with Foxconn serving as a testbed, the Wall Street Journal reported today.
"Foxconn has been working with former Android executive Andy Rubin since last year to carry out the US company’s vision for robotics," the report said. "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, sources said. At the meeting, Gou expressed excitement over new automation technologies demonstrated by Rubin, they said."
Foxconn, which assembles iPhones and iPads and many other consumer products, including Android devices, wants to increase the use of automation "at its factories amid challenges of rising labor costs and workplace disputes in China, where it has more than a million workers," the Journal noted. Poor working conditions for Foxconn employees has drawn condemnation, and in one case may have caused a riot that temporarily closed a factory.
Google's robotics development is not believed to be initially directed at building consumer products. "At least for now, Google’s robotics effort is not something aimed at consumers. Instead, the company’s expected targets are in manufacturing—like electronics assembly, which is now largely manual—and competing with companies like Amazon in retailing," the New York Times reported in December.
Foxconn's ambition to populate its factories with robots that can assemble electronics projects make the company an ideal testing ground for Google's robotics tech, analysts told the Journal.
In response to a query from Ars, Google said, "we won't comment on rumors."