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Human-like robots exist, but they’re not very graceful. Are they necessary?

Creating a robot that looks and works like a human has been a dream for engineers for many years, often influenced by science fiction.
humanoid-robotCreating robots that are both human-like and useful has been a goal for engineers for a long time, often inspired by science fiction. Despite the recent interest in artificial intelligence, most of the current robot prototypes are awkward and not very practical, often working better in controlled performances than in real-life situations. However, a few startups are persistently working to improve them.

Their goal is not just to make robots that look like humans from scratch, but rather to create robots that can work effectively in human environments.

The concept of humanoid robots that resemble humans in form and function has long been a goal, inspired by science fiction. However, most current humanoid robot prototypes are clumsy and not very practical in real-world scenarios. Several startups are working on improving these robots, with a focus on creating robots that can effectively operate in human environments. For example, Agility Robotics has developed a robot called Digit, which is designed for tasks like picking up tote bins in warehouses. Amazon is testing the use of Digits in its warehouses, emphasizing the mobility aspect over the robot’s appearance.

Other companies, like Figure AI, are taking a more purist approach, aiming to create true humanoids capable of navigating workplaces, homes, and society designed for humans. These humanoids are seen as a solution to labor shortages and could potentially perform various tasks. While these companies have raised significant funding, they are still in the prototype phase.

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Even major companies like Tesla are working on humanoid robots. However, there are mixed results, with some demonstrations receiving criticism. The development of humanoid robots is seen as a learning experience, not just about their design and operation but also about how people interact with them and the underlying technologies required for mobility, dexterity, perception, and intelligence.

Startups are often focused on improving the dexterity of robotic fingers before tackling walking, as manipulating objects is a more challenging problem to solve than walking. For example, Sanctuary AI has developed Phoenix, a bipedal robot capable of stocking shelves, unloading delivery vehicles, and operating checkouts. The goal is to create robots that can understand speech and interact with people intelligently, potentially revolutionizing various industries.

Agility’s Digit robot, while not purely humanoid, has gained attention from Amazon for its mobility. It complements Amazon’s existing robots that move large carts in its warehouses. Although Digit is currently being tested for specific tasks, it raises questions about the impact on human jobs. Despite these concerns, the future may see more human-centric robots integrated into various aspects of human life.

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