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A world populated by robots might not be so far away, after all. Companies have been racing to create the best humanoid robots in the industry, making them look like humans, think and feel like humans, all without the frailties of human beings. From Amelia the customer service chatbot to Digit and Moley, we list down some of the industry’s leading robotic accomplishments.
If you’ve been closely following developments in robotics, you’ll know that this one has become a household name. She’s been a guest on national television and has even gone on a date with Will Smith. Created and designed by Hanson Robotics, Sophia is a known pioneer, bridging humans and robots.
Described by her creators as a “combination of science, engineering, and artistry,” this artificial intelligence-powered machine has since become the face of AI, even called the world’s first robotic citizen and the first to become an Innovation Ambassador for the United Nations Development Program. It’s not hard to see why people love her: she can observe and mirror human behavior, giving her a “personality” of her own.
At her core, this robot was built with the idea of fulfilling every sci-fi fanatic’s dream of a world populated by autonomous robots. For now, she aims to help humans in the field of medicine and education.
Humanoids are perhaps the most significant fascination in the field of robotics. Many industry leaders agree that the human figure…
Toyota is set to prove they’re more than just an automotive company. With more focus on mobility development, the team…
Robots are slowly becoming more ubiquitous, branching out into multiple industries. Apart from the fields of engineering, medicine…
The year is off to a great as one of the most promising humanoids was launched at CES 2022, an annual tech show in Las Vegas. Beomni 1.0 is…
Space exploration has benefited wildly from the use of robotics, from Sputnik down to the Space Voyager. Now, another robotic entity…
Robots aren’t just for research: they can serve drinks, too. Meet Kime, the bartending humanoid crafted by Spain-based company Macco…
So far, most technology we’ve seen in these androids is primarily for research. Except for service-oriented android robots, the most…
Want to see a humanoid up close in action? Check out Aqua City Odaiba, one of Tokyo’s leading waterfront outlets, where you’ll…
Some robots were built for pushing boxes and newscaster roles. Some were designed to be partners in a field hospital for the coronavirus…
A hallmark of a successful android is its ability to “feel” emotions. That’s what makes the Pepper, developed by Japanese company…
Rounding up our list is one of the most realistic faces we’ve seen on a robotic entity thus far. Meet Erica, the brainchild of Hiroshi Ishiguro…
It seems that companies everywhere are racing to create the most advanced androids in the market. Industry leaders like Hanson, Boston Dynamics, Toshiba, and more have put out their versions of what a humanlike robot should be.
While plenty of these products are still in development, we’ve gotten sneak peeks on how far along they are. Most of these developers share a similar goal. You’ll often hear them talk about robots as assistants in the workforce or replacing humans for menial, routine jobs. Some even work as a newscaster.
Technically, a male robot is called an android while the female version is called a gynoid. However, most just use the term humanoid to refer to them.
Most robots have a distinctly robotic look. Examples are Aldebaran Robotics’ Nao Nao, Digit, and the Atlas robots from Boston Dynamics. Others, however, have a human likeness. Erica, the Japanese robot, is a great example.
|Sophia by Hanson||• UN Ambassador |
• Ability to communicate with humans
• Humanlike appearance
|T-HR3 - Toyota||• Multiple degrees of freedom |
• Designed to assist human workers in different fields
|Amelia The Conversational AI||• A digital humanoid |
• Advanced conversational abilities
• Service robot for online use
|Beomni 1.0||• Unique set of skills|
• Able to carry heavy weights, making it ideal in warehouses and construction
• Can do household chores
|Vyommitra By The Indian Institute Of Space Research||• Pushes the boundaries of space exploration |
• Can assist humans on outer space projects
|Kime by Macco Robotics||• Can dispense beverages with record speed|
• Competent service robot
• Can be hired for parties and events
|Digit by Agility Robotics||• Mobile and dextrous|
• Great object detection
• Perfect for menial tasks
|Junko Chihira||• Accommodating robot|
• Ability to communicate with humans
• Realistic human face
|Atlas by Boston Dynamics||• Enhanced agility|
• Ability to make autonomous movements
• Great balance
|Pepper by SoftBank Robotics||• Educational social robot |
• Can recognize human emotions
• Great for therapy and companionship roles
|Erica by IRL||• Has a realistic human face|
• Sharp communication skills
• Responds to questions
Humanoids are perhaps the most significant fascination in the field of robotics. Many industry leaders agree that the human figure allows robots to perform tasks with never-before-seen agility and precision, thus the keen interest in creating fully functional humanoids. Sophia is an example, and her mainstream success proves that pushing the boundaries is possible.
Hong Kong robotics company Hanson, headed by CEO David Hanson, is credited for developing this machine. On their website, Sophia is described as the world’s first robot citizen, having become an official citizen of Saudi Arabia in 2017. Since her conception, she’s been featured on national television, making guest appearances on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Good Morning Britain.
It’s clear that the Hanson team envisions a human-like robot in Sophia, one capable of making meaningful human-robot interactions and real conversations. Her responses are a mix of autonomous and scripted replies, similar to character robots and voice agent robots, but elevated: “Ultimately, I would like to become a wise, empathetic being and make a positive contribution to humankind,” she states on the website.
However, critics have warned the public to see through the hype, reminding everyone that engineers and developers are still far from creating a truly autonomous robot, even one as lifelike as this.
Toyota is set to prove they’re more than just an automotive company. With more focus on mobility development, the team at Toyota Research Institute has made T-HR3, their third-generation companion robot set to facilitate human workers in multiple fields, including the home, medical centers, and disaster-stricken areas.
A human’s movements can fully control this robot down to the smallest joint in the finger, making it the perfect assistant in the medical field and other such delicate work. However, Toyota’s overall goal has always been better mobility. That means this robot might also be used to assist not only caregivers but also patients, specifically the elderly and people with disabilities, in navigating the world while losing physical autonomy.
What makes this particular iteration of Toyota’s robots special is its degrees of freedom, a term used to describe the number of “movable joints” in a robot. This one has 32 degrees of torque-controlled freedom, plus ten mobile fingers.
This definitely isn’t the first time the words “companion robot” have been thrown around. In nursing homes and medical care facilities, robot-assisted therapy has gained popularity. Read all about how robotic animals are used to aid memory and physical impediments in older adults who have dementia here.
Robots are slowly becoming more ubiquitous, branching out into multiple industries. Apart from the fields of engineering, medicine, and caregiving, you’ll find plenty of businesses sporting digital humanoids as part of their customer service teams. One such robot is Amelia, the conversational humanoid, who is, in essence, a chatbot meant to assist customers with problems.
Amelia is a humanoid that is entirely virtual, meaning it doesn’t have a physical form but is simply pure artificial intelligence. This allows it to perform cognitive skills, have meaningful conversations with humans, and even show emotions, despite the lack of a physical body.
It’s also marketed as a service desk assistant, boasting human-like characteristics and top-notch functionality to perform numerous assistive tasks.
The year is off to a great start as one of the most promising humanoids was launched at CES 2022, an annual tech show in Las Vegas. Beomni 1.0 is the jack of all trades, with an extensive range of skills that go from medical service to agricultural knowledge.
Beomni is a humanoid with a basic structure that follows human anatomy from head to toe, but with a distinctly robotic face and exterior. It can lift up to 35 lbs. of weight in each arm, has opposable thumbs, and can be controlled by humans from miles away.
We named it the most versatile robot because of its ability to master both heavy-duty work like construction and delicate tasks like pinching salt for cooking.
Space exploration has benefited wildly from the use of robotics, from Sputnik down to the Space Voyager. Now, another robotic entity is set to navigate outer space in the form of Vyommitra. The brainchild of the Indian Institute of Space Research (ISRI), this female bot is set to be traversing the cosmos as part of Gaganyaan missions in 2022.
Vyommitra is a combination of the Hindu words Vyoma and Mitra, which, together, loosely translate to “space friend.” Indeed, this robot’s primary goal is to accompany unmanned and manned missions on the Gaganyaan, a space-orbiting sky craft. Its functions include environment control, switch-panel operations, and mimicking human activity.
The benefits of using humanoid robots as opposed to other forms of robots (or even actual humans) are clear. The technology and physical structure allow the machines to swiftly mimic a human’s movements while having stronger body parts, making them competent assistants. This is part of ISRO’s vision to make space exploration safer and more efficient.
Robots aren’t just for research: they can serve drinks, too. Meet Kime, the bartending humanoid crafted by Spain-based company Macco Robotics. The Kime uses its two articulating arms to pull a beer tap, angle a glass, and dispense drinks to willing customers.
This robot has been working overtime at parties and festivals (before COVID-19), operating its own kiosk and moving around on a rolling machine to serve food and beverages. With a record speed of 1 beer glass per 23 seconds, the allure of a robotic service worker is unmistakable.
But the creators have larger aspirations for their robot. According to the CTO of Macco Robotics, the end goal is to design a robot that can experiment with creating her own food and beverages. In other words, a robotic humanoid chef. For now, the Kime stays our pick for the best humanoid bartender, although it might be the only one of its kind.
So far, most technology we’ve seen in these androids is primarily for research. Except for service-oriented android robots, the most advanced are usually not built for commercial or industrial use, yet. Digit seems to be the exception. This box-moving, warehouse-working delivery robot is set to be a replacement for humans working in unsafe environments.
What makes this particular machine so special is its dexterity. On the surface, it seems easy to make an android mimic the movements of real people. After all, isn’t their thing supposed to be that they’re more advanced than the average person? But the reality is far more complex. That’s why it’s an incredible achievement when machine-learning humanoids such as this one show unique agility. Squatting down and lifting a box, for example, displays advanced legged mobility and object manipulation.
So, what’s in store for this technology? The entire vision, it seems, is to make Digit an all-around working android that can eventually surpass others of its type. Don’t be surprised if it one day shows up at your doorstep with a package in hand.
Want to see a humanoid up close in action? Check out Aqua City Odaiba, one of Tokyo’s leading waterfront outlets, where you’ll be warmly greeted by Junko Chihira. Junko is a female humanoid developed by Toshiba, and she’s designed specifically to assist you.
The successor to Aiko Chihira, another service humanoid from the same company, Junko uses natural language processing technology to synthesize speech. That way, she’s able to speak a wide range of languages: Japanese, English, and Chinese. Back in 2015, the company revealed that their biggest goal is to make Junko a competent assistant for tourists.
Some robots were built for pushing boxes and reporting news. Some were designed to be partners in a field hospital for the coronavirus pandemic. Others are doing backflips in parkour courses. You can probably guess where our next model fits in.
The Atlas robots from Boston Dynamics can do all sorts of gymnastic-level stunts, as seen in their now-viral video. However, that isn’t everything they have to offer. In fact, the robots are more a research project than anything — at least for now. In the future, the team at Boston Dynamics envisions a do-anything type of robot. The fancy stunts are just an added bonus.
A hallmark of a successful android is its ability to “feel” emotions. That’s what makes the Pepper, developed by Japanese company SoftBank, a cut above the rest. Pepper is a social being, meaning it has features such as enhanced face detection and conversational skills.
This can mean plenty of wonderful things for businesses looking to get robots in their customer service teams, but Pepper is especially useful for another situation: helping socially isolated children and elderly people. For children with autism, social robots have become a key tool in therapy sessions that help these kids develop significant social skills.
Rounding up our list is one of the most realistic faces we’ve seen on a robotic entity thus far. Meet Erica, the brainchild of Hiroshi Ishiguro, a professor at Osaka University. The school’s Intelligent Robotics Laboratory is known for their lifelike androids created in the likeness of real humans.
While it makes sense to have an android that actually possesses a humanlike face, critics have cited the Uncanny Valley hypothesis as a problem. The uncanny valley is a term that refers to a psychological phenomenon wherein humans react negatively to robots that appear too realistic.
However, Hiroshi Ishiguro believes that there is a large market for these robots. Erica is a stunning feat of technology, after all: she possesses heightened speech abilities, has a variety of emotional expressions, and can respond to questions. There’s certainly a place for these entities in larger society, the company believes.
|Humanoid Robot||Model Name||Design||Functionality||Quality||Total Rating|
|Sophia by Hanson||9||10||9||9.3|
|T-HR3 by Toyota||9||10||9||9.3|
|Amelia The Conversational AI||8||10||9||9|
|Vyommitra By The Indian Institute Of Space Researc||8||10||9||9|
|Kime By Macco Robotics||9||9||9||9|
|Digit by Agility||9||9||9||9|
|Atlas By Boston Dynamics||9||9||8.5||8.8|
|Pepper By Softbank||9||8.5||8.5||8.6|
|Erica By IRL||8.5||8.5||8.5||8.5|
A robot-run future is still a little ways off, but it’s nonetheless exciting to see the developments. Let’s just hope these machines, intelligent as they may be, stay on our good side. We wouldn’t want any of them shooting laser beams at us.
While true sentient robots are far from becoming reality, plenty of AI-backed robots have been developed over the past few years. Even the words “artificial intelligence” have been a point of contention in the robotics industry, as plenty of leaders throw the words around carelessly. But the truth is, we can already see some form of this technology in the real world: self-driving cars, Amazon Alexa, and the robots above are just a few examples of incredibly advanced AI.
In the world of humanoids, Hanson’s Sophia and Honda’s ASIMO are considered to be two of the most advanced in terms of intelligence and mobility. This is largely due to their ability to seemingly respond to people in a natural way, as if they could think for themselves.
Yes, there are humanoid robots meant for commercial use, such as service robots.
According to a CNBC article, the average humanlike robot costs around $20,000 to $50,000 depending on its capabilities and functions.