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Google teams up with Foxconn to trade robotic tech for robotic manufacturing, says report

Google is teaming up with long-time Apple partner Foxconn to work on Google's robotics vision.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that the Taiwanese contract manufacturer, which has built a lot of Apple's iPhones and iPads, has struck a deal with Google to build robotics for the company.

Google declined to comment this afternoon and Foxconn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Andy Rubin, Google's former Android lead and now the head of the company's robotics efforts, recently went to Taipei to meet with Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou about the deal, reported the Journal, citing unnamed sources.

The deal would benefit both companies, giving Google a robotics manufacturer and giving robotics technology to Foxconn for its manufacturing business.

"Well, that should speed up development cycles for Google," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. "Foxconn is one of the industry's largest contract manufacturers and what they do best is build things. Google, on the other hand, invents things but its core competency isn't building things, particularly hardware, quickly and efficiently."

The pact, he added, would bring hardware manufacturing scale to Google -- a must, if Google wants to mass produce robots at an affordable price.

"Pretty soon we'll have an army of Google robots, like in Star Wars II," said Kerravala.

Google, a company known worldwide for search, Android and its ubiquitous Maps service, has been taking a deep dive into robotics in the past six months or so. The company announced late last month that it was acquiring DeepMind Technologies, a London-based artificial intelligence (AI) company.

In December, Google bought Boston Dynamics, a robotics company known for its four-legged BigDog robot, as well as six-foot-tall, 330-pound humanoid robot, Atlas.

Those acquisitions came on the heels of a six-month buying spree in which Google bought seven other robotics businesses.

In addition, Google has been working for the last several years to develop autonomous automobiles. The self-driving car effort has logged thousands of miles on the road and even had Google executives approaching Detroit car makers in the hopes of finding business partners.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

Read more about emerging technologies in Computerworld's Emerging Technologies Topic Center.


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