As Henry Ford famously wrote of his fledgling automotive company a century ago, "We shall lead the nation in its race to build an army of robots with laser vision." OK, Henry Ford did not write that, famously or otherwise, which is why we scratched our heads upon learning this morning that Ford is investing $100 million in, well, an army of robots with laser vision. But it makes sense, actually--and even fits with the very Fordian principle of speed and excellence in manufacturing.
These are plant robots--the brawny, tentacle-like things; not the humanoid, Asimov, type--the manufacturing sort of robot that Ford has been using for quite a while. The laser-sighted bots flit their way around an assembled car moving slowly down an inspection line. It zips around the body of the car, minutely checking the joint between the door and the chassis as a whole. If it detects the smallest anomaly, an operator is alerted to the problem. The goal is to ensure the perfect fit--thereby reducing wind noise for the highway driver.
Ford had been piloting the bot in Germany; finding it a success there, it's spending $100 million in building more bots, including in Chicago and Michigan.
Ford shared a frightening video of the laser-vision bot doing its work. It hovers around the car like a mechanical humming bird, all the while emitting sounds like a dental drill. Let's not give these robots legs anytime soon.
[Image: Flickr user van Ort]