Robots are a familiar sight along virtually every automotive assembly line, lifting heavy objects or stamping then stacking body panels. Now, rather than wall them off and have the robots endlessly repeat numbingly (for humans) basic tasks, a senior Hyundai executive sees a point fast approaching where robots will share space alongside human workers, directly assisting them.
Tomorrow’s robots will be able to work with humans to perform a variety of complex operations and even permit them to perform super-human tasks, said Chang Song, president of the Hyundai Motor Group, the self-described “head geek.”And, by taking advantage of the metaverse (virtual worlds for interacting with other people, computers and connected devices), robots could become physical avatars serving as “a partner on the ground who could do the work” for a human located somewhere else, said Song, one of several speakers who outlined Hyundai’s vision of advanced robotics during a CES presentation.
Genesis, Robots, Mobility Services Mark Hyundai’s Ascent
Once known for its entry-level automobiles, Hyundai has gone through a series of changes in recent years. Not only has it moved upmarket, launching the Genesis luxury brand that saw sales triple last year, Hyundai has broadened its scope to become a “mobility services” company. “Robotics and mobility naturally work together,” said Hyundai Chairman Euisun Chung who opened the Tuesday evening event, one the CES automaker presentations that was actually held at CES. BMW, GM and Mercedes-Benz cancelled; Fisker, Hyundai and Stellantis attended. Robots first began showing up in automotive assembly plants back in the 1970s and, while they’ve become stronger, more flexible and a bit smarter, most continue to perform the same, basic duties. They’re typically bolted to the ground and walled off, welding body panels, applying adhesives or transforming parts from one conveyor to another.
Robots Moving Freely in the Factory
But Hyundai – and some of its competitors – envision robots capable of moving more freely about the factory. The robot might have wheels or legs. The Korean company planted a stake in the ground when it acquired Boston Dynamics in June 2021. The U.S. firm had already developed a reputation for developing cutting-edge robotic technology, including a robotic dog playfully named Spot. The 70-pound, four-legged machine has already found a place in automotive manufacturing. Hyundai rival Ford last year put several of them to work, precisely mapping out the interiors of its factories. Tomorrow’s robots will take on all sorts of sh…