Humanoid Robots in 2023 and Beyond: From UN's AI for Good to Boston Dynamics

July 25, 2023

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The United Nations' AI for Good Global Summit 2023, held recently in Geneva, is a unique platform that brings together visionaries, UN organizations, and investors focused on sustainable development.

The summit showcases over 50 robots, including nine humanoid robots, designed to tackle global challenges in line with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Grace, Sophia, and Ameca - robots - are equipped to support people's health and wellbeing, provide high-quality educational services, reduce inequalities, and broadly enhance social good.

MarketsandMarkets welcome these developments and we take a look at some global trends and developments in 2023 in this space here. 


Recent Advancements in Humanoid Robots

The field of humanoid robotics has seen significant advancements in recent years, with robots becoming more sophisticated and capable of performing complex tasks. For instance, Boston Dynamics' Atlas robot has demonstrated the ability to run, jump, and climb, showcasing the potential for humanoid robots to navigate environments in ways previously thought impossible.

Another notable development is the introduction of Ameca, a humanoid robot designed by Engineered Arts. Ameca is powered by generative artificial intelligence, enabling it to respond to questions, commands, and interact with people. This robot represents a significant step forward in human-robot interaction, with its ability to instantly compose a poem or sketch a cat on request.


How Humanoids Have Improved from Previous Versions?

Recent advancements seen in 2023 represent significant improvements over previous versions of humanoid robots. The increased mobility of robots like Atlas, for instance, is a major leap forward from earlier models that were limited in their movement capabilities.

Similarly, the AI-powered capabilities of robots like Ameca represent a significant enhancement over previous versions. Earlier humanoid robots were often limited in their ability to interact with humans and respond to commands. However, with the integration of advanced AI, these robots can now engage in more complex interactions, understand commands better, and even exhibit creative abilities such as writing poems.


Who Leads Research in Robotics: Institutes and Companies?

Several research institutes and companies are at the forefront of advancements in humanoid robotics. Here are five of them:

  1. Boston Dynamics: Known for their advanced robots like Atlas and Spot, Boston Dynamics is a leader in the field of robotics.
  2. Engineered Arts: This UK-based company is the creator of Ameca, a humanoid robot that can interact with humans in a variety of ways.
  3. Carnegie Mellon University: Recognized as one of the top universities for robotics research, Carnegie Mellon has made significant contributions to the field.
  4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) is renowned for its research in robotics and AI.
  5. Stanford University: Stanford's Artificial Intelligence Lab has been a pioneer in robotics research, with a focus on developing robots that can interact naturally with humans.

These institutions are pushing the boundaries of what's possible in humanoid robotics, paving the way for a future where robots can perform increasingly complex tasks and interact with humans in more sophisticated ways.


What is 'AI for Good' initiative?

The AI for Good initiative is a movement centered around the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to address and solve some of the world's most pressing challenges. This initiative is often associated with the United Nations' AI for Good Global Summit, which is the leading United Nations platform for inclusive dialogue on AI.

The goal of the AI for Good initiative is to ensure that AI benefits all of humanity by driving inclusive growth, bringing about societal changes, and empowering individuals across the globe. The initiative focuses on leveraging the power of AI to address the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out by the United Nations. These goals include eradicating poverty, achieving zero hunger, promoting good health and well-being, ensuring quality education, and more.

The AI for Good initiative encourages the development of AI systems that are transparent, explainable, accountable, and that respect privacy and ethical considerations. It promotes collaboration among nations, industries, academia, and civil society to explore the beneficial use of AI while also addressing its ethical, legal, and societal implications.


Who are Ameca, Grace, and Sophia robots?

  1. Ameca Robot Ameca is a humanoid robot developed by Engineered Arts, a UK-based company known for creating lifelike robots. Ameca is designed to be the most advanced humanoid robot in the world, capable of mimicking human facial expressions and movements with an unprecedented level of realism. The robot uses a combination of artificial intelligence, advanced materials, and sophisticated mechanical design to achieve this. Ameca is intended to be used in a variety of roles, including customer service, entertainment, and research.
  2. Grace Robot Grace is a humanoid robot developed by Hanson Robotics, the same company that created Sophia. Grace was specifically designed to assist in healthcare settings, particularly in scenarios related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The robot can perform tasks such as taking temperatures, measuring pulse rates, and assisting with patient communication. Grace is equipped with artificial intelligence that allows it to interact naturally with patients, understand their needs, and provide comfort.
  3. Sophia Robot Sophia is a humanoid robot developed by Hanson Robotics, a Hong Kong-based company. Sophia is one of the most famous humanoid robots in the world, known for her advanced AI and ability to mimic human facial expressions. Sophia uses AI, visual data processing, and facial recognition to conduct human-like conversations and improve her responses over time. She was designed to learn and adapt to human behavior, which contributes to her ability to form relationships with humans. Sophia has been granted the title of the world's first robot citizen by Saudi Arabia, and she serves as the United Nations Development Programme's first non-human Innovation Champion.

Which companies are building AI powered humanoid robots?

Here are some of the top companies that are at the forefront of building AI-powered humanoid robots:

  1. Hanson Robotics: This Hong Kong-based company is known for creating robots like Professor Einstein, Albert Hubo, and Sophia, the first robot ever to be granted citizenship. Hanson Robotics uses a patented material that closely resembles real human skin to create machines that genuinely look, speak, and act like humans.
  2. UBTech Robotics: Founded in 2012, UBTech Robotics develops AI technologies and builds humanoid robots for various applications. Among its notable products are WalkerX, Cruz, and AimBot. UBTech's robots have been used in a variety of settings, from setting the Guinness World Record for the greatest number of dancing robots in a single event to assisting medical workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. Macco Robotics: This tech company focuses on building creative solutions for the food, beverage, and hospitality industries. Macco's robots, which include Kime, Cart, and DBot, are developed mainly for hotels, restaurants, and parks.
  4. Promobot: Promobot manufactures humanoid robots for service delivery in people-oriented or customer-facing business units. These robots can perform a variety of tasks, from customer service to security, and can integrate with existing digital systems.
  5. Tesla: Known for leading the charge toward electric mobility and clean energy generation, Tesla also plans to create humanoid robots powered by Tesla's autopilot AI, computers, cameras, and batteries.
  6. Shadow Robot Company: This London-based company creates machines and systems based on human needs. They develop sophisticated robotics with advanced dexterity to perform complex tasks in sensitive research and hazardous conditions.
  7. Boston Dynamics: Boston Dynamics is known for developing highly mobile robots such as Atlas, which can navigate complex terrains and perform a variety of tasks.
  8. Samsung Electronics: Samsung is a global leader in enterprise mobility and information technology, and it also ventures into the field of robotics.
  9. Qihan Technology: Qihan Technology designs and develops a wide range of digital products, including commercial robots like the Sanbot Elf, a wheeled humanoid robot that uses AI and links with cloud-based systems to perform different tasks.
  10. Intuitive Robots: This France-based company creates custom applications dedicated to humanoid robots. They design robots that are capable of interacting naturally with people.

Can humanoids do human tasks?

Yes, humanoid robots are specifically designed to perform tasks in a similar way to humans. They are built to mimic human form and behavior, which allows them to carry out a wide range of tasks that were traditionally performed by humans.

While humanoid robots can perform many human tasks, it's important to note that they are still tools designed to assist and augment human capabilities, and they currently cannot replace the full range of human abilities, especially those involving complex decision-making, creativity, and emotional understanding.

Here are some examples:

  1. Physical Tasks: Humanoid robots can perform a variety of physical tasks such as lifting heavy objects, cleaning, cooking, and even complex tasks like performing surgeries. For instance, Boston Dynamics' Atlas robot can run, jump, and climb, demonstrating the potential for humanoid robots to navigate environments and perform physical tasks in ways previously thought impossible.
  2. Social Interaction: Robots like Sophia from Hanson Robotics and Ameca from Engineered Arts are designed to interact with humans in a social setting. They can carry on conversations, respond to questions, and even mimic human facial expressions.
  3. Healthcare: Some humanoid robots are designed to assist in healthcare settings. For example, Grace, developed by Hanson Robotics, is designed to assist in healthcare settings, particularly in scenarios related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The robot can perform tasks such as taking temperatures, measuring pulse rates, and assisting with patient communication.
  4. Education: Humanoid robots can also be used in educational settings, where they can act as tutors, helping students with learning and homework.
  5. Customer Service: Humanoid robots can be used in customer service roles, where they can answer queries, provide information, and even guide customers in stores or other facilities.
  6. Disaster Response: Humanoid robots can be used in disaster response scenarios, where they can navigate through rubble or hazardous environments that may be unsafe for humans.

Which industries are humanoid robots used in?

Humanoid robots are used in a variety of industries, including:

  1. Medical and Research: Humanoid robots are valuable resources in the world of medicine and biotechnology. They are used to develop complex prosthetics for individuals with physical disabilities such as missing limbs. For example, the Wabian-2 is a medical humanoid robot created to help patients in the rehabilitation of their lower limbs. Humanoid robots can also be used as test subjects for the practice and development of personalized healthcare aids, essentially performing as robotic nurses for demographics such as the elderly.
  2. Entertainment: Humanoid robots have a long history in the realm of entertainment. From the conception and ideas in the story of Prometheus to the application and physical build of modern animatronics used for theme parks. Current uses and development of humanoid robots in theme parks are focused on creating stuntronics, humanoid robots built for serving as stunt doubles.
  3. Procedurally-Based Vocations: Humanoids are suitable for some procedurally-based vocations such as reception-desk administrators and automotive manufacturing line workers. In essence, since they can use tools and operate equipment and vehicles designed for the human form, humanoids could theoretically perform any task a human being can, so long as they have the proper software.
  4. Cognitive Science and Biomechanics Research: Humanoid robots are used as research tools in several scientific areas. Researchers study the human body structure and behavior (biomechanics) to build humanoid robots. On the other side, the attempt to simulate the human body leads to a better understanding of it. Human cognition is a field of study which is focused on how humans learn from sensory information in order to acquire perceptual and motor skills. This knowledge is used to develop computational models of human behavior.

These are just a few examples, and the applications of humanoid robots are continually expanding as technology advances.


Popularly known humanoid robots across the world?

Here are some of the popular humanoid robots across the world:

  1. Ameca: Developed by Engineered Arts, Ameca is a highly advanced humanoid robot that serves as a development platform where AI and machine learning systems can be tested. It can detect emotions and ages when interacting with humans and can communicate back with common expressions.
  2. Alter 3: Created by Osaka University and Mixi, Alter 3 is a musically inclined humanoid robot powered by an AI neural network. It has enhanced sensors and an improved expressive ability and vocalization system for singing.
  3. Armar-6: Developed by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Armar-6 is designed to work in industrial settings. It can use tools, hand objects to human coworkers, and ask for help when needed.
  4. Astro: Developed by Apptronik, Astro is a humanoid robot on wheels designed to work with and alongside human counterparts. It uses machine learning to learn how to pick up objects and is currently working in a variety of industries ranging from manufacturing to logistics.
  5. Atlas: Designed by Boston Dynamics, Atlas is a highly nimble humanoid robot capable of moving at speeds of more than 5 miles per hour and performing backflips. It uses depth sensors for real-time perception and model-predictive control technology to improve motion.
  6. Beomni: Developed by Beyond Imagination, Beomni is a humanoid robot that is controlled remotely by human pilots donning virtual reality headsets and other wearable devices. It uses AI to learn tasks so one day it can become autonomous.
  7. Digit: Developed by Agility Robotics, Digit is a humanoid robot capable of unloading trailers and moving packages. It has fully functioning limbs and is able to crouch and squat to pick up objects, adjusting its center of gravity depending on size and weight.
  8. JiaJia: Developed by researchers from the University of Science and Technology of China, JiaJia is the first humanoid robot to come out of China. Its human-like appearance was modeled after five students from USTC.
  9. Sophia: Developed by Hanson Robotics, Sophia is an AI-powered humanoid robot that has traveled the world, graced the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine, and addressed the United Nations. Sophia can process visual, emotional, and conversational data to better interact with humans.
  10. Walker X: Developed by UBTECH Robotics, Walker X is a humanoid service robot with improved hand-eye coordination and autonomous navigation. It is able to safely climb stairs and balance on one leg.

Are humanoid robots realistic?

Humanoid robots have come a long way in terms of their realism, thanks to advancements in technology and artificial intelligence. Androids, a type of humanoid robot, are designed to resemble humans in appearance and behavior. They are becoming increasingly realistic, with some even capable of mimicking human facial expressions and movements.

For instance, the robot called PediaRoid, developed by Japanese scientists, can mimic several human emotions and reproduce complex actions. It can change its facial color, roll its eyes back in its head, and even has a pulse. Another example is Nikola, a robot child developed by the Riken Guardian Robot Project in Japan, which can convey six basic emotions using moving muscles in its face.

Engineered Arts, a company known for creating realistic humanoid robots, has developed robots like Ameca and Adran. Ameca is described as the world's most realistic humanoid robot, while Adran, a robotic head, has 22 custom actuators that allow it to move its eyes and mouth just like a human.

Hanson Robotics, the company behind the famous humanoid robot Sophia, has also developed Grace, a robot nurse designed to interact with the elderly and those isolated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Grace can simulate the action of more than 48 major facial muscles and has a comforting demeanor.

Promobot, a Russian startup, has developed RoboC, a humanoid android that can be built with a lifelike human face with 16 moving parts capable of delivering over 600 facial expressions. It uses artificial intelligence and has a sophisticated speech synthesizer.

However, while these robots are becoming more realistic in appearance and behavior, they are not perfect replicas of humans. They are still machines and have limitations. For instance, while they can mimic human facial expressions and movements, their responses are pre-programmed and lack the spontaneity and complexity of human behavior.

Humanoid robots are becoming increasingly realistic, they are not yet indistinguishable from humans. However, with the rapid advancements in technology and artificial intelligence, it is possible that we may see even more realistic humanoid robots in the future.


What are Boston Dynamics Robots?

Boston Dynamics is a leading engineering and robotics design company known for creating some of the most advanced and dynamic robots in the world. Here are some of their notable robots:

  1. Spot: Spot is a four-legged robot designed for indoor and outdoor operation. It is electrically powered and hydraulically actuated. Spot has a sensor head that helps it navigate and negotiate difficult terrain. Spot is used in a variety of applications, including in construction, delivery, security, and home assistance.
  2. Atlas: Atlas is a bipedal humanoid robot that is designed to operate on rough terrain. The robot is 1.5 meters tall, weighs 80 kg, and is designed for a variety of search and rescue tasks. Atlas can walk bipedally leaving the upper limbs free to lift, carry, and manipulate the environment.
  3. BigDog: BigDog was a quadrupedal robot created in 2005 by Boston Dynamics, in conjunction with Foster-Miller, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Harvard University Concord Field Station. It was funded by DARPA with the hope of it serving as a robotic pack mule to accompany soldiers in terrain too rough for vehicles, but the project was shelved after BigDog was deemed too loud for combat.
  4. Handle: Handle is a robot that combines the rough-terrain capability of legs with the efficiency of wheels. It uses many of the same principles for dynamics, balance, and mobile manipulation found in the quadruped and biped robots, but with only 10 actuated joints, it is significantly less complex.
  5. LittleDog: LittleDog is a small quadruped robot developed for DARPA by Boston Dynamics for research. Unlike BigDog, which is run by Boston Dynamics, LittleDog is intended as a testbed for other institutions. Boston Dynamics maintains the robots for DARPA as a standard platform.
  6. Cheetah: The Cheetah is a four-footed robot that gallops at 28 miles per hour (45 km/h), which as of August 2012, is a land speed record for legged robots.

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