Currently, it’s challenging to evaluate the development of different systems because they’re all still in relatively early stages, but Sanctuary Cognitive Systems Corporate (or the far more potent Sanctuary AI) recently achieved a significant milestone.
Phoenix, the Vancouver, British Columbia, company’s own attempt at the form factor, was just introduced. The 5’7″ and 155 lb. bipedal robot is akin to the humans it will complement (or, depending on who you ask, replace). The machine has a maximum speed of three miles per hour and can carry objects up to 55 pounds.
The system sports its own complex hands, with 20 degrees of freedom “that rival human hand dexterity and fine manipulation with proprietary haptic technology that mimics the sense of touch.”
The company said in March that Phoenix’s precursor had been used in a Mark’s store outside of Vancouver, where it was developed. The fifth-generation system carried out “110 retail-related [tasks], including front and back-of-store activities such as picking and packing merchandise, cleaning, tagging, labelling, folding, and more” during the week-long restricted test.
The “general purpose” part is another important feature of these humanoid robots. In some respects, developing a system that, in theory, can perform any task that its human coworkers can in the workplace presents a more difficult challenge than developing the hardware itself.
“We designed Phoenix to be the most sensor-rich and physically capable humanoid ever built and to enable Carbon’s rapidly growing intelligence to perform the broadest set of work tasks possible,” says co-founder and CEO Geordie Rose. “We see a future where general-purpose robots are as ubiquitous as cars, helping people to do work that needs doing, in cases where there simply aren’t enough people to do that work.”
“To be general-purpose, a robot needs to be able to do nearly any work task, the way you’d expect a person to, in the environment where the work is,” Rose adds. “While it is easy to get fixated on the physical aspects of a robot, our view is that the robot is just a tool for the real star of the show, which in our case is our proprietary AI control system, the robot’s Carbon-based mind.”
Sanctuary announced a Series A just short of $60 million in March of last year. It was discovered eight months later that the Canadian government had contributed $30 million, bringing the total amount of funding to far over $100 million.
Also read : Microsoft will create a brand-new Edge version using Project Phoenix
Looking past all of the representations, Sanctuary offers a useful assessment of the state of the competition to create the ideal humanoid robot. Phoenix is not at all like the slick systems we’ve seen in renders (the business very deliberately labelled every image in its press package “not a render”), but it doesn’t make the company’s accomplishments any less significant. Remember that we’re still very early in what could grow to be something far bigger.