According to a recent report citing Foxconn chairman Terry Gou, the tech giant plans on investing NT$10 billion ($341 million) in the artificial intelligence field in order to develop industry-level AI applications designed to support smart manufacturing. The company also intends on working with universities in order to conduct basic AI research, all the while providing scholarships to encourage the development of AI-based applications and relevant education.
One portion of the $341 million investment will apparently be directed toward establishing AI app development labs in Taiwan – specifically Taipei and Kaohsiung – as well as China, namely in Shenzen, Shanghai, Nanjing, and Beijing. Furthermore, the company also aims to open AI development labs in the United States and Japan, and the first round of investments will cover the recruitment of around 100 experts in the field. According to Foxconn Group's vice president Lu Fang-ming, the company's existing factories located in Taiwan and China can allow for experimenting with AI-based applications for the industrial Internet, so it appears that the tech giant might first want to explore the benefits of AI in regards to its own production lines in order to determine its best uses. Additionally, reports citing Gou also suggest that Foxconn intends on developing AI applications for the medical field. If successfully completed, such solutions would first launch in Taiwan and China, followed by the United States.
According to the reports, the initial $341 million investment will be carried over the course of the next five years, so this appears to be a long-term plan for the company and a way to establish itself as an AI tech supplier early on. Foxconn has been working on ways to fully automate its production lines for quite some time now, with around 60,000 of its factory workers being replaced by robots in mid-2016. Its new plant in Wisconsin which is currently under construction was also reported to be fully powered by robots once operational, so it remains to be seen how effectively Foxconn could combine the concept of automation with AI applications designed to support smart manufacturing. Regardless, Foxconn is still increasing its presence in the global market in multiple ways and the firm just recently acquired a new office building in Milwaukee which will reportedly be used as its U.S. headquarters.