Mercedes Wants to Put Humanoid Robot Worker on Trial | Digital Trends


Humanoid robots have exploded in recent years, and some major companies are starting to take notice.

Mercedes-Benz, for example, just reached an agreement with Texas-based robotics specialist Apptronik to collaborate on identifying applications for advanced robots that could be used by the auto giant. The deal includes a test in which Apptronik’s humanoid robot Apollo will work alongside Mercedes’ human workers on the factory floor.

As part of the trial, the robot will bring vehicle parts to the production line for workers to assemble and will also deliver containers of assembled parts later in the manufacturing process.

“When we began building Apollo, an agreement like the one we are announcing today with Mercedes-Benz was a dream scenario,” Apollo co-founder and CEO Jeff Cardenas said in a press release. “Mercedes plans to use robotics and Apollo to automate some physical, physically demanding manual labor – a model use case that we will see other companies replicate in the coming months and years.”

We are excited about the collaboration @Mercedes Benz To equip factory workers with cutting-edge technology that automates physically demanding, repetitive and boring tasks that humans don’t want to do. Stay tuned, this is just the beginning.

– Apptronik (@Apptronik) March 15, 2024

The fear with advanced robotics – and even more so with increasingly adept humanoid robots – is that they will replace large numbers of human workers. Apptronik clearly advocates robot support rather than replacement. Mercedes managing director Jörg Burzer agrees with this approach, explaining that the idea is to “close workforce gaps in areas such as low-skilled, repetitive and physically demanding work and relieve the burden on our highly qualified team members on the assembly line.”

Apollo is the culmination of Apptronik’s dedicated efforts in the development of more than ten other robots, including NASA’s humanoid robot Valkyrie. It is 1.75 meters tall and weighs 160 pounds. The robot can handle payloads of up to 55 pounds and work for four hours on a single charge. To maximize efficiency, batteries can be quickly replaced.

Apptronik is far from the only company involved in developing a new wave of humanoid robots, and more and more of them are also setting their sights on the automotive sector. In January, for example, California-based Figure struck a similar deal with BMW to deploy its own humanoid robot at the automaker’s plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Tesla is also working on the Optimus biped robot, while Xiaomi is developing the CyberOne. And of course there is Boston Dynamics, which continues to work on extremely versatile robots for workplace use.

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