Robots for household chores less than 10 years away: expert

The humanoid machine can undertake all kinds of general-purpose tasks.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Phoenix the robot removing a hanger.jpg
Phoenix the robot removing a hanger.

Sanctuary AI/ YouTube 

A new report by the BBC is quoting Geordie Rose, the chief executive of Sanctuary AI, a firm engineering a robot for household chores and general-purpose tasks, and the expert has stated that the development is less than 10 years away.

Ten years: an eternity

"Ten years at the pace the technology is moving now is an eternity. You know, every month, there's new developments in the AI world that are like fundamental change," Rose told the news outlet.

IE has already reported on Sanctuary AI’s household robot in May of this year. It’s called Phoenix and is five feet seven inches (5"7') and 155 pounds (70 kg).

Its goal is to do all the chores and tasks that humans find so burdensome. And it’s not just for homes. In a trial project undertaken in March of 2023, the robot worked a retail store in Vancouver, where it undertook 110 retail-related tasks such as picking and packaging merchandise, labeling, tagging, folding, and even cleaning up the store.

It even managed to use plastic bags to store clothes, a task Rose told the BBC was a true testament to how advanced the robot is.

"This is a problem that engages a lot of different complex issues in an AI driven robotics system, because bags are floppy, they're transparent... there's a place where they open.

"Usually after you manually open the bag, you have to release one hand and then go and put something in a bag," explained Rose.

"The manipulation of bags is actually very, very hard for robots.”

Tasks filmed and digitized for a virtual world

Now, Sanctuary AI is planning on using film to train its humanoid robot, making it even more agile and efficient. Once the required tasks have been filmed they will be digitized to allow the rot to reconstruct the movements.

This will allow the AI part of the robot to practice tasks in a virtual environment until it has mastered them. Once that is done, it will repeat those same actions in the real world.

Perhaps the most difficult ordeal in creating Phoenix is giving the robot a sense of touch so it can properly handle objects. That is a lofty goal that Rose and his team are currently working on.

"We have a facility with these types of tasks that comes from an evolutionary heritage, that's like a billion years long... they're very hard for machines," told the BBC Rose.

Phoenix is already looking quite effective at helping humans with both professional and household tasks. The question that lingers is will the robot overtake human jobs? 

It’s hard to dismiss the impact of a machine that can undertake so many general purpose tasks. One thing is for sure: Rose predicts that these types of robots will be commonplace, creating a whole new popular market.

"The long term total addressable market is the biggest one that's ever existed in the history of business and technology - which is the labor market. It's all of the things we want done," he told the BBC.

It seems humanoid robots are here to stay for better or for worse.

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