Contrary to popular belief, robots and artificial intelligence has its origin in the ancient world. Robotic concepts can be traced back to the 4th century BC, when Greek mathematician Archytas proposed a steam-powered mechanical bird named “The Pigeon.” During the same era, Aristotle invented syllogistic logic, the first formal deductive reasoning system.
The history of robots and humanoid robots indicates the first humanoid robot was a soldier with a trumpet, made in 1810 by Friedrich Kaufmann in Dresden, Germany.
Fast forward to 1977. Moviegoers and Sci-Fi geeks around the globe were introduced to George Lucas’ Star Wars C-3PO — a fictional humanoid robot. C-3PO was designed as a protocol droid intended to assist in etiquette, customs, and translation, and boasted that he was “fluent in over six million forms of communication”.
Sophia, a social humanoid robot developed by Hanson Robotics, made her first public appearance in 2016 and became the first robot to receive citizenship of any country. Sophia has been featured in numerous high-profile interviews and has been covered by media outlets all around the world.
With the continuous advancements in technology, the humanoid robot market is evolving rapidly and demand for these highly technological devices will continue to rise. According to ReportsnReports, this market is expected to reach USD $17.3 billion by 2027. Let’s take a closer look at five humanoids and/or robots of particular interest that are currently available or under development:
- Atlas, the most dynamic humanoid robot, by Boston Dynamics
Unveiled to the public in July 2013, Atlas is one of the most well-known humanoids developed by Boston Dynamics, a spin-off of MIT founded in 1992. The robot was initially designed for a variety of search and rescue tasks. The 6’2″ 330-lb. humanoid robot was developed for DARPA (“Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency”) and it was capable of a variety of natural movements in its original configuration. Atlas rose to fame on social media for its unrivaled ability to jump over obstacles, perform backflips, dance, and successfully run a parkour track.
- Ameca, the world’s most advanced human shaped robot, developed by Engineered Arts
Engineered Arts has created a few robots since its inception in 2005. But its most recent model, Ameca, is without a doubt the most sophisticated yet. This automaton went viral after it was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2022. Upon boot up, Ameca comes to life. It scrunches its cheeks, raises its eyebrows, and then grimaces and blinks. Microphones in the robot’s ears allow it to triangulate sound and turn to nearby noise while cameras in its eyeballs run a simple machine vision program to track hands and faces. The result is it responds like a human would. With the addition of chatbot AI GPT-3, Ameca can have full conversations.
- The Tesla Bot, also known as Optimus
Preliminary concepts depicted Optimus as a human dancer dressed like a robot. In late September 2022, the latest working prototype was introduced at Tesla’s AI Day. Most roboticists in attendance were underwhelmed and stated that the product was lacking in many areas. CEO Elon Musk envisions Optimus will one day do a wide variety of helpful tasks including carrying boxes in a warehouse and office, placing the box on a desk, picking up a watering can and watering some plants. Tesla’s intent is to mass produce millions of units and sell them for much less than the cost of a car – under $20,000 each.
- Beomni, a human-assisted general purpose humanoid robot, by Beyond Imagination
Introduced at CES 2022, Beomni was designed with robotic hands and arms for more practical, real-world applications. It is human controlled with a VR headset and gloves from anywhere in the world so the user can see and touch what the robot is seeing and touching. Beomni was built with an AI brain that learns over time, allowing it to improve at specific abilities until it becomes semi-autonomous, and ultimately, autonomous. The robot’s AI brain is initially trained by manually guiding the robot with VR gloves, but it may also be trained using virtual twin data acquired by users on a virtual reality app. Beomni can be taught to make sandwiches, clean the house, and execute other tasks on a task-by-task basis.
- Sanctuary AI, a general-purpose robot with human-like intelligence, developed by Sanctuary Cognitive Systems
Sanctuary AI is currently under development with the premise that it will become the world’s first human-like intelligence in general purpose robots to assist individuals in working more safely, efficiently, and sustainably. It intends to develop robots capable of performing a variety of tasks while interacting with humans. Sanctuary’s cognitive architecture was developed to mimic the brain’s subsystems. The alleged robots will be human-like in terms of size, appearance, and cognitive architecture. Their software will mimic human brain subsystems such as vision, hearing, touch, and memory. Future robots will be able to execute almost any human task when paired with the basic general-purpose system. Complicated and risky jobs could be completed from anywhere in the world, eliminating the need for employees to be present on the job site.
Many experts believe that rather than totally replacing human labour, humanoid robots will continue to supplement people and free up their time to perform higher-level tasks. So don’t worry about your livelihood just yet!