Integration was another factor considered in the development of Baxter, Brooks says. Companies looking to install the robots need not also invest in a new fleet of highly trained engineers or employees. Comparing the robot's programmability to the ease of use of a smartphone, Brooks says a company could have a Baxter robot operational within an hour after bringing it into a factory.
When applied to a large industrial manufacturing project, this kind of recognition and programmability has the potential to be revolutionary. Brooks cited the production of Apple's iPad, which has been the subject of much controversy since news reports have uncovered the long, tedious processes Chinese factory workers are subjected to during production.
An ABC Nightline report earlier this year found that every iPad passes through the hands of 325 people in the production process. With the recent addition of a new model of iPad, this number could soon grow substantially. The introduction of a safe, easily managed manufacturing robot could not only reduce the risk of errors in production, but could also improve the working conditions and overall quality of life for Foxconn factory workers.
The transition is already beginning to take place. According to the New York Times, Foxconn plans to install more than 1 million industrial robots in its factories in the coming years. Although Foxconn employees will undoubtedly be benefactors of this transition, company chairman Terry Gou is looking forward to it as well.
"As human beings are also animals, to manage 1 million animals gives me a headache," Gou said earlier this year, according to the Xinhua news agency.
Colin Neagle covers emerging technologies, privacy and enterprise mobility for Network World. Follow him on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/ntwrkwrldneagle and keep up with the Microsoft, Cisco and Open Source community blogs. Colin's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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