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Figure: AI robotics firm sign major deal with BMW

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

Figure has announced that as a part of the commercial agreement, it will first identify potential uses for its robots on BMW’s auto assembly lines. Subsequently, the robots are expected to gradually take over hazardous, repetitive, and monotonous 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 received $70 million in Series A funding last year. The aim of the new collaboration is to enhance productivity and safety by allowing BMW employees to focus on more complex tasks that require human skills and supervision according to the companies.

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

Aside from deploying robots, BMW and Figure will also work together to explore advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual manufacturing, and robot integration.

Dr. Robert Engelhorn, President and CEO of BMW Manufacturing, said, “The automotive industry is rapidly evolving, and BMW aims to be at the forefront of innovation. Using robotics solutions has the potential to drive greater efficiency and support the upcoming transformation.”

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

While the partnership between Figure and BMW seems promising in theory, its implications for human jobs are uncertain. BMW’s extensive Spartanburg plant employs 11,000 individuals and contributes around $27 billion to the state’s economy annually.

According to Figure, their humanoid robot is designed to tackle “undesirable or unsafe jobs, and to support supply chain and manufacturing on a global scale.” The robots may be utilized to supplement the work of current employees or introduce entirely new production methods.

The impact on workers from the implementation is yet to be determined.

Earlier this month, Readwrite reported on Figure’s significant strides in fulfilling its mission to “enhance human capabilities through advanced AI” by showcasing how its AI can perform basic human tasks like making coffee.

Mass deployment of robotic workers is still a ways off. This technology is in its early stages, but the collaboration with BMW represents a significant step forward and one that is worth monitoring.

BMW was approached for comment.

Featured Image: Figure AI

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