Sanctuary AI is one step closer to building human-like robots

The company unveiled its sixth-generation machine, as well as a new proprietary AI tech to power it.

Sanctuary AI, the Vancouver-based company that aims to build the world’s first human-like intelligence in general purpose robots, has announced the next evolution of its technology.

The machine, named Phoenix, is the world’s first humanoid general-purpose robot powered by a unique AI control system. The company has dubbed that software Carbon, and says it will enable the robot to have human-like intelligence that allows it to do a wide range of tasks.

Phoenix stands at 5’7”, and weighs 155 pounds. It’s able to carry up to 55 pounds, and travel at a top speed of three miles per hour. Most significantly for the company’s sixth-generation of its robot, Phoenix will sport industry-leading mechanical hands with 20 degrees of freedom in their motion — a dexterity that matches that of the human hand — and will also contain haptic technology that mimics a person’s sense of touch.

The Carbon tech that powers it, meanwhile, integrates a number of newfangled fields. The software includes modern AI technologies to translate natural language into actions in the real world, which enables Phoenix to think, act, and complete tasks like a person. Also embedded in the system are structures to allow for symbolic and logical reasoning, and the software uses deep learning and reinforcement learning to achieve the robot’s agency and goal-seeking behaviours.

“We designed Phoenix to be the most sensor-rich and physically capable humanoid ever built, and to enable Carbon’s rapidly growing intelligence to perform the broadest set of work tasks possible,” said Geordie Rose, Sanctuary AI’s co-founder and CEO. “We see a future where general-purpose robots are as ubiquitous as cars, helping people to do work that needs doing, in cases where there simply aren’t enough people to do that work.”

Robot-powered work has become a hot-button issue. The rise of ChatGPT and other generative AI platforms like Dall-E have led to concerns about whether machines can take the place of white collar workers, or what tasks those workers will have to give up. “Humans doing the hard jobs on minimum wage while the robots write poetry and paint is not the future I wanted,” reads a popular meme circulating this week.

Sanctuary AI’s Phoenix, however, aims to fill the gap of those “hard jobs.” The company says its robots stand apart, as machines are typically designed to complete one specific task, but its general-purpose robots will complete an unspecified amount of assignments by drawing on their general intelligence.

This announcement comes after the company in March launched its first robot in a real store, a Mark’s in Langley, where it completed 110 retail-related tasks correctly, including front- and back-of-store activities such as picking and packing merchandise, cleaning, tagging, labelling, folding, and more. The robot was operated by a person, meaning that it didn’t compute and execute the tasks independently. The unveiling of Carbon and Phoenix, however, suggests the company is one step closer to that goal.

“To be general-purpose, a robot needs to be able to do nearly any work task, the way you’d expect a person to, in the environment where the work is,” Rose said. “While it is easy to get fixated on the physical aspects of a robot, our view is that the robot is just a tool for the real star of the show, which in our case is our proprietary AI control system: the robot’s Carbon-based mind.”

Sanctuary AI is well-funded in its vision. Last spring, the company completed its $75.5 million Series A round, before receiving a $30 million contribution from the Government of Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund. The company is also actively raising money for its next funding round.

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