Figure: AI robotics firm sign major deal with BMW

Figure, a developer of autonomous humanoid robots, has signed a major deal with BMW to bring its robots to the car maker’s US factory.

Under the commercial pact, Figure announced on Thursday it will initially identify potential applications for its robots on the German multinational’s auto assembly lines. Then will follow a gradual deployment phase where it’s hoped the robots will take over dangerous, tedious, and repetitive tasks from human workers at the Spartanburg, South Carolina plant.

The Californian artificial intelligence (AI) company has been developing autonomous general-purpose humanoid robots since 2022 and picked up $70 million in Series A funding last year. The goal of this new partnership is to increase productivity and safety by enabling BMW employees to focus on higher-value assignments that require human skills and oversight, according to the companies.

“The potential of general purpose robotics is completely untapped,” said Brett Adcock, Figure’s CEO. “Our robots will enable companies like BMW to increase productivity, reduce costs and create a safer and more consistent environment.”

In addition to deploying robots, BMW and Figure will collaborate on exploring advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, virtual manufacturing and robot integration.

“The automotive industry is evolving rapidly and BMW aims to be an innovator,” said Dr. Robert Engelhorn, BMW Manufacturing’s President and CEO. “The use of robotics solutions has the potential to drive greater efficiency and support the transformation ahead.”

Excited to announce that Figure has signed a commercial agreement with BMW 🤝

We will deploy our general purpose robots into automotive manufacturing environments.

More below: pic.twitter.com/LPisMeZZbi

— Figure (@Figure_robot) January 18, 2024

What does Figure’s deal with BMW mean for jobs?

It all sounds great on paper but what does this mean for human jobs? BMW’s massive plant in Spartanburg employs 11,000 people and generates around $27 billion for the state each year.

Figure say their humanoid robot is designed to address “jobs that are undesirable or unsafe, and to support supply chain and manufacturing on a global scale.” The robots may be used to supplement the work of existing workers or to take on entirely new production methods.

BMW insists no jobs will be lost. In a statement, BMW Manufacturing in the US told Readwrite: “No job losses will occur, and there will be no changes for our associates.

“BMW is always exploring the latest technology to make our processes more efficient. Companies that invest in innovation such as this are more sustainable, become more productive, and have a competitive advantage. Innovation, digitalization, and sustainability are key success factors for our future.

“With the ever-changing automotive industry, we know there will be more and more complexity. We need the right tools for the future, and this is just one tool in our toolbox that can be used.”

Earlier this month Readwrite reported Figure’s significant progress in achieving its mission to “expand human capabilities through advanced AI” by demonstrating how its artificial intelligence (AI) performs simple human tasks like making a coffee.

Robotic workers utilized on a large scale are still a while off. This is very much the early stage of this technology, but the partnership with BMW is a significant step and one to pay attention to.

Featured Image: Figure AI

Sam Shedden

Managing Editor

Sam Shedden is an experienced journalist and editor with over a decade of experience in online news.

A seasoned technology writer and content strategist, he has contributed to many UK regional and national publications including The Scotsman, inews.co.uk, nationalworld.com, Edinburgh Evening News, The Daily Record and more.

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