This Canadian AI Startup has Designed the World’s First Humanoid General-Purpose Robot That Actually Works

A majority of the companies today, including the likes of Tesla, Figure and others, are still in the prototype and experimentation stage.
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Vancouver-based artificial intelligence and robotics company, Sanctuary AI, yesterday unveiled a new advanced, general-purpose robot called Phoenix. The company claimed that it has developed the world’s first humanoid general-purpose robot powered by Carbon, a unique AI control system. The SOTA AI system offers human-like intelligence and enables robots to do a wide range of tasks to help address the labour challenges affecting many organisations. 

In March this year, the company announced its first commercial deployment, a significant milestone in the company’s progress toward full commercialisation. In a little less than two months the company has now announced the sixth generation of technology. 

Founded in 2018, Sanctuary AI is on a mission to create the world’s first human-like intelligence in general-purpose robots that will help humans work safely, efficiently, and sustainably. The members of Sanctuary AI are also part of the founding team at D-Wave, Kindred, Creative Destructive Lab and others. In a bid to fulfil the ambitious mission of creating human-like intelligence in general-purpose robots, it has partnered with companies like Apptronik, Bell, Common Sense Machines, Contoro, Cycorp, Exonetik, HaptX, Magna, Tangible Research, Verizon Ventures, Workday Ventures, and others.

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In March last year, the company raised Series AI funding. In November 2022, the company received a C$30 Mn strategic innovation fund (SIF) contribution from the Government of Canada, bringing its total funding to over C$100 Mn. 

How is Sanctuary AI Different?  

While the majority of the companies, including the likes of Tesla are still in the prototype and experimentation stage, Sanctuary AI claimed that its technology is already capable of completing hundreds of tasks identified by customers from more than a dozen different industries. Sanctuary AI chief and cofounder Geordie Rose said that it designed Phoenix to be the most sensor-rich and physically capable humanoid robot ever built and to enable Carbon’s rapidly growing intelligence to perform the broadest set of work tasks possible. 

Meanwhile, here is a glimpse of Tesla’s humanoid robot, exploring the real world. 

“I think Tesla is in a great position to build the largest humanoid robot data flywheel ever. Very optimistic to see the latest progress on Tesla,” said Linxi Fan, AI scientist at NVIDIA. 

He said Optimus can reuse the powerful vision system built for FSD. “The decision to use a camera instead of LIDAR makes the models instantly transferable,” he added, saying that many humanoid tasks likely need less precise and rigorous visual processing than self-driving. 

Further, he said that Tesla has deep experience in mass-producing hardware. “The first company to deploy humanoid en masse will be able to spin the data flywheel in the wild and compound the model capability faster than competitors,” he added. 

On the other hand, Sanctuary AI claimed its literal take on ‘general purpose’ and emphasis on creating a technology that can conduct physical work just like a person sets them apart in the industry. Rose said that to be general purpose, a robot needs to be able to do nearly any work task, the way humans typically do, in the environment where the work is. “While it is easy to get fixated on the physical aspects of a robot, our view is that a 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,” he added. 

In March this year, AI robotics startup Figure also claimed to have released the world’s first commercially available general-purpose humanoid robot Figure O1, the prototype of which bears a strikingly close resemblance to Tesla’s robot Optimus. Read: Meet Tesla Optimus Clone

Shyam Nandan Upadhyay
Shyam is a tech journalist with expertise in policy and politics, and exhibits a fervent interest in scrutinising the convergence of AI and analytics in society. In his leisure time, he indulges in anime binges and mountain hikes.

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