Google Is Working on Robotics With One of Apple's Favorite Partners

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Feb. 11 2014 7:52 PM

Google Is Working on Robotics With One of Apple's Favorite Partners

Google's work with Foxconn will help the former develop operating systems for robots and the latter automate manufacturing processes.

Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

Apple's longtime manufacturing partner Foxconn, which assembles most iPhones and iPads, has been fooling around with someone else: Google. It's not what you think, though. They're in it for the robots.

Foxconn has been looking to automate portions of its factories because of rising labor costs and because the company has low sales per employee, analyst Wanli Wang told the Wallstreet Journal. Additionally, Foxconn employs more than a million people but doesn't have a very good track record when it comes to addressing workers' rights, mental health, and safety concerns. Automating some of the more tedious work could alleviate some of these problems.


On the other side, Google is reportedly looking for a testing ground for a robot operating system the company is developing for manufacturing. This makes Foxconn a perfect partner as both companies want to build out this segment.

Sources told the Wall Street Journal that Foxconn executives like Chairman Terry Gou have been meeting with Google's head of robotics, Andy Rubin, since last year to work on a plan. Google has taken numerous steps to grow its robotics division, including the purchase of Boston Dynamics in December. Improving electronics assembly would not only help Foxconn, but could also aid Google in churning out new devices. For example, automating the process of building complex robots would lower their cost and could broaden their prevalence. Robots building robots!

It's unclear how Google's partnership with Foxconn will help or hurt Apple down the line, if at all. Apple could benefit if Foxconn improves their assembly lines through automation, but may lose some of their sway at Foxconn if Google becomes an important partner to the Taiwanese company.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

The Ludicrous Claims You’ll Hear at This Company’s “Egg Freezing Parties”

  News & Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM Going Private To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
Atlas Obscura
Oct. 1 2014 10:32 AM The Corpse-Lined Hallways of the Capuchin Monastery Catacombs
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 8:46 AM The Vintage eBay Find I Wore to My Sentencing
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 10:27 AM 3,000 French Scientists Are Marching to Demand More Research Funding
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 7:30 AM Say Hello to Our Quasi-Moon, 2014 OL339
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.