Saturday, June 22, 2024
Offbeat

Magna car plant will test a humanoid robot

Sanctuary AI announced that it will be delivering its humanoid robot to a Magna manufacturing facility. Based in Canada, with auto manufacturing facilities in Austria, Magna manufactures and assembles cars for a number of Europe’s top automakers, including Mercedes, Jaguar and BMW. As is often the nature of these deals, the parties have not disclosed how many of Sanctuary AI’s robots will be deployed.

The news follows similar deals announced by Figure and Apptronik, which are piloting their own humanoid systems with BMW and Mercedes, respectively. Agility also announced a deal with Ford at CES in January 2020, though that agreement found the American carmaker exploring the use of Digit units for last-mile deliveries. Agility has since put that functionality on the back burner, focusing on warehouse deployments through partners like Amazon.

For its part, Magna invested in Sanctuary AI back in 2021 — right around the time Elon Musk announced plans to build a humanoid robot to work in Tesla factories. The company would later dub the system “Optimus.” Vancouver-based Sanctuary unveiled its own system, Phoenix, back in May of last year. The system stands 5’7” (a pretty standard height for these machines) and weighs 155 pounds.

Phoenix isn’t Sanctuary’s first humanoid (an early model had been deployed at a Canadian retailer), but it is the first to walk on legs — this is in spite of the fact that most available videos only highlight the system’s torso. The company has also focused some of its efforts on creating dexterous hands — an important addition if the system is expected to expand functionality beyond moving around totes.

Sanctuary calls the pilot, “a multi-disciplinary assessment of improving cost and scalability of robots using Magna’s automotive product portfolio, engineering and manufacturing capabilities; and a strategic equity investment by Magna.”

As ever, these agreements should be taken as what they are: pilots. They’re not exactly validation of the form factor and systems — that comes later, if Magna gets what it’s looking for with the deal. That comes down to three big letters: ROI.

The company isn’t disclosing specifics with regard to the number of robots, the length of the pilot or even the specific factory where they will be deployed.

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