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Following Tesla's lead, BMW will use humanoid robots in car production: 10 million jobs could be replaced

BMW is experimenting with humanoid robots inspired by Tesla's Optimus (Image: Figure)
BMW is experimenting with humanoid robots inspired by Tesla's Optimus (Image: Figure)
After Tesla caused a sensation with its humanoid robot Optimus and Hyundai teamed up with Boston Dynamics, which became famous for its robot dog Spot, BMW is now following suit: Robots with artificial intelligence are to be used in car production.

After Tesla's initial success with its Tesla Optimus Gen 2 humanoid robot, BMW is now following suit. The carmaker has begun its first experiments with human-like robots with artificial intelligence for use in car production. The company is being helped to build the all-purpose robots by start-up Figure, whose aim is to create more space for people and initially use the humanoids in industry in areas such as warehousing, logistics and retail.

Single-purpose robotics have saturated the commercial market for decades, but the potential of general-purpose robotics is completely untapped. Figure's robots will enable companies to increase productivity, reduce costs, and create a safer and more consistent environment.

- Brett Adcock, founder and CEO of Figure, also founded Archer Aviation, an electric airtaxi company

Figure's robots have a human appearance because the start-up wants to combine "human dexterity with cutting-edge artificial intelligence to go beyond single-function robots and provide support in manufacturing, logistics, warehousing and retail." Of particular interest is the use of humanoids for dangerous or repetitive, boring tasks.

Humanoid robots for a positive impact on humanity

For example, Figure points out on its website that the US is experiencing an unprecedented labour shortage, with around 10 million unsafe or undesirable jobs that are becoming increasingly difficult to fill as the population ages. If robots could take over these jobs, people could ultimately live happier and more purposeful lives, Figure said. Automation is therefore necessary for growth, according to Figure:

With the first humanoid by our side in the workforce, we’ll have the ability to create and produce so much more, address drastic labor shortages, and reduce the number of workers in unsafe jobs.

In BMW's case, the robots will initially be used at the Spartanburg plant in South Carolina, where BMW assembles various off-road vehicles. However, it is not yet clear in which area the robots will be used. Other future applications could include the use of humanoids as household helpers, laboratory assistants or for space exploration. Figure does not intend to release the robots for military use.

Technical data (Image: Figure)
Technical data (Image: Figure)

What is the robot really capable of?

So far, all it has learnt is how to operate a Keurig coffee machine and make coffee. Not much, perhaps, but the special thing is that it is said to have acquired this skill by watching other people make coffee over a 10-hour period. That doesn't sound too bad when you consider that Elon Musk was recently caught allegedly cheating. His Tesla Optimus demonstrated how to fold a shirt in a video on X (formerly Twitter). It turned out that it was not doing this autonomously, but was being controlled by a person in the background wearing a control glove.

But Tesla and BMW are not alone in their ambitions. Hyundai, for example, is working with Boston Dynamics, a company that became famous for developing the Spot robot dog. The four-legged friend has proven its ability to assist medical staff in high-risk environments such as hospital wards. However, it is unclear how long it will be before humanoid robots are ready for mass use - possibly decades.


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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2024 01 > Following Tesla's lead, BMW will use humanoid robots in car production: 10 million jobs could be replaced
Nicole Dominikowski, 2024-01-20 (Update: 2024-01-20)