Robotics startup Figure has announced a partnership with BMW Manufacturing to introduce its humanoid robots to the carmaker’s U.S. facility.
This collaboration reflects a growing trend among companies leveraging human-like robots for specific physical tasks. Tesla’s humanoid robot Optimus Bot (aka Teslabot) attracted a lot of attention during its reveal last year, but obviously, this model is not the only one on the market, and an increasing number of companies are starting to explore the possibility of working with that kind of autonomous or semi-autonomous robotic equipment.
The deal, Figure’s first commercial agreement since its 2022 founding, entails an initial deployment of a limited number of robots, with potential expansion based on performance targets. The details about the precise quantity remain undisclosed. However, it is known that Figure’s humanoids will be integrated into BMW’s manufacturing processes in Spartanburg, South Carolina, over the next 12-24 months.
A short demonstration of the Figure’s humanoid robot can be seen below:
This BMW’s manufacturing facility in Spartanburg is the largest automotive exporter in the U.S., employing 11,000 people. Over the first stage of adoption (which entails the aforementioned 12-24 month period), the humanoids will undergo training to execute specific tasks, integrating into various manufacturing processes such as the body shop, sheet metal, and warehouse.
Brett Adcock, Figure’s CEO, emphasized the careful design of the robots to ensure safety alongside humans. The collaboration with BMW on manufacturing automation is seen by the producer as a significant validation for Figure in the robotics space.
Car manufacturers, including Honda and Hyundai, have been exploring the application of humanoid robots to handle repetitive and hazardous tasks on assembly lines. Tesla recently introduced its latest humanoid, Optimus Gen 2, with Elon Musk envisioning a future with a billion humanoid robots by the 2040s.
The surge in interest from investors focuses on general-purpose humanoid robots equipped with AI-powered software, capable of diverse movements and learning new tasks akin to humans. While current robots are task-specific, the short-term viability of more flexible robots for a broader range of services in real-life scenarios remains uncertain.
Written by Alius Noreika