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

162624100-this-picture-taken-on-february-22-2013-shows-a-young
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.

Advertisement

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.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 16 2014 11:46 PM The Scariest Campfire Story More horrifying than bears, snakes, or hook-handed killers.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.