Driven by breakthrough AI, humanoid robots make grand entry

By MA SI | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-10-03 07:35
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Dog-shaped robots by Chinese company Unitree are presented at a demonstration during the World Police Summit 2023 in Dubai in March. KARIM SAHIB/AFP

"With AI at its core and a full-size humanoid frame as its vessel, this is an exploration of possibilities of Xiaomi's future technological ecosystem and a new breakthrough for the company," Lei added.

Xiaomi said it will use CyberOne in its smart manufacturing in future.

Humanoid robots rely on vision to process their surroundings. Equipped with a self-developed Mi-Sense depth vision module and combined with an AI interaction algorithm, CyberOne is capable of perceiving 3D space, as well as recognizing individuals, gestures, and expressions, the company said.

CyberOne has a self-developed environment semantics recognition engine and a vocal emotion identification engine, enabling it to recognize 85 types of environmental sounds and 45 classifications of human emotion. CyberOne is able to detect happiness, and even comfort a user in times of sadness, the company added.

On Aug 18, Chinese startup Agibot also launched an AI-enabled humanoid product, with its founder vowing to keep the robot's cost below 200,000 yuan ($27,468).

"The rise of the robot industry chain is closely related to the revolutionary wave of general AI," said Chen Jia, a researcher at the International Monetary Institute of Renmin University of China."Humanoid robots will be an industry field with great growth potential in the next decade."

Chinese investors have eagerly flocked to humanoids over the past two years though there are obstacles to making humanoid robots more commonplace.

There are shortcomings in the design of humanoid robots, and their functionalities are not in line with the demand of customers. Technological hurdles also exist. How to use limited resources for specific goals is also a problem that industrial enterprises must seriously consider, Chen said.

Meanwhile, the affordability of humanoid robots is also a challenge for quick market applications, according to analysts.

"As a manufactured good, humanoids can only have a solid market when costs are lowered to an acceptable level," said Guo Qianqian, an analyst at Essence Securities.

For less than $90,000, Unitree H1's "price tag can be a game changer," said Jim Fan, a research scientist at AI chip giant Nvidia in a tweet, arguing that Boston Dynamics' robotic dog costs $75,000 and is far less complex.

"Unitree H1 is within budget for many university labs and almost dirt-cheap for tech companies," Fan said.

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