In a groundbreaking move, Figure, a company that emerged from stealth mode just 10 months ago, has signed its first commercial deal to deploy general-purpose humanoid robots at BMW’s manufacturing plant in South Carolina. Founder and CEO Brett Adcock, in an exclusive interview, discusses the rapid development of Figure’s robots and the transformative impact they could have on the workforce.
Figure’s journey has been nothing short of remarkable, with prototypes up and walking within a year of development. The recent release of a video showcasing the Figure 01 robot autonomously making coffee marked a significant milestone, demonstrating the robot’s ability to learn and perform tasks independently.
The commercial agreement with BMW is a historic moment, as it represents one of the first purely commercial deals in the field of humanoid robotics. While other companies, such as Amazon with Agility Robotics, have introduced autonomous humanoids into the workforce, Figure’s deal with BMW is distinctively focused on solving automation issues with dextrous and mobile manipulation.
Adcock explains the strategic choice of partnering with BMW, citing the automaker’s extensive experience with robotics and automation in car manufacturing. The initial focus will be on tasks in the body shop, involving sheet metal and warehouse logistics work.
Acknowledging the potential concerns surrounding the integration of humanoid robots in the workforce, Adcock emphasizes a milestone-based approach. The initial deployment involves a limited quantity of robots, with scalability contingent on proving their effectiveness in real-world applications.
Adcock is committed to transparency, intending to keep the public informed about the progress of humanoid robotics. He plans to showcase the robot’s behavioral learning capabilities in real application work and stresses the importance of building in public.
As humanoid robots venture into the workforce, questions about their role in a post-work society and the impact on human labor arise. Adcock remains optimistic, asserting that the field of humanoid robotics is far from reaching the peak of the Hype Cycle. He anticipates rapid advancements in the coming year, promising an exciting and transformative period for the industry. The era of humanoid robots in the workforce is just beginning, and according to Adcock, the journey has only just taken off.