General-purpose robots are entering society


Tech startup Sanctuary AI has unveiled a general-purpose robot designed to perform many workplace tasks that are currently occupied by humans, with or without cooperation.

Challenge: Robots have been working with people for decades, but they have traditionally been very specialized. For example, a robot on a General Motors assembly line may move a piece of metal from one place to another many times.

This means that if a business owner wants to automate multiple tasks, they will need to purchase multiple (usually expensive) robots.

General-purpose robots (robots that can handle a wide variety of tasks) allow employers to automate the most pressing tasks of the day, but building a bot with many capabilities is (as you might imagine) a challenge. Much harder than building a robot. repeating one thing over and over again.

“We designed Phoenix to be the most sensor-rich, physically capable humanoid ever created.”

Jordy Rose

what’s new? Canada-based Sanctuary AI is one of several companies looking to overcome this challenge and bring general-purpose robots to market. Released “Phoenix”.

“We designed Phoenix to be the most sensor-rich and physically capable humanoid ever created. [our AI platform’s] Intelligence is growing rapidly to perform the widest possible range of work tasks,” said Jordy Rose, co-founder and CEO of the startup.

detail: Phoenix stands 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighs 155 pounds and can lift up to 55 pounds. His human-like hands are equipped with 20 degrees of freedom and tactile sensors, allowing him to perform tasks that require dexterity and precision, such as labeling packages or picking fruit.

According to Sanctuary, Phoenix also possesses human-like intelligence thanks to a unique AI control system called Carbon. It acts as the bot’s “brain” and the computer can be trained to complete new tasks in his simulation.

Alternatively, Phoenix could “learn by demonstration”. In this approach, the human uses her VR headset to see what the bot sees and uses a special rig to guide it to complete new tasks.

This setting can also be used for remote control, which allows people to work from home, prevents injuries from manual labor, and potentially increases the number of jobs available to people with disabilities.

In January, Sanctuary conducted a pilot test at a Mark’s retail store near its headquarters, demonstrating the remote working potential of the robot. Over the course of a week, humans had the startup’s fifth-generation general-purpose robot perform 110 tasks. That’s about 40% of the work a typical employee would have to do in a store.

Future outlook: The ultimate goal is still a robot that can walk into the workplace and complete a task without the need for constant human oversight, but how far Phoenix can perform autonomously, or whether the bot can do something new? It is not clear how long it will take to train.

However, Sanctuary has begun deploying general-purpose robots to other locations near its headquarters, so we should know more soon. Customers don’t have to buy bots to enjoy the benefits, they can hire bots by the hour.

“Our model is focused on delivering workforce as a service to our customers,” chief marketing officer Ben Reed told The Register. “Hourly rates vary depending on the company and the complexity of the tasks that need to be performed.”

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