PARIS: The Chinese government has announced its intention to accelerate the design and mass production of autonomous humanoid robots to meet needs in industry, services and personal assistance.
At the same time, China hopes to become the leading country, ahead of the United States, in what promises to be a new technological revolution.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) made the announcement in a nine-page report calling on Chinese industries to step up the pace. The idea is that, by 2025, the technology will enable reliable humanoid robots to be developed for mass production by 2027.
The roadmap is therefore particularly ambitious, since the idea is to develop robots over the next two years that are not only capable of performing repetitive and often menial tasks, but also of communicating with humans, creating genuine interaction between people and machines.
For the Chinese government, the rise of these robots could one day have as great an impact on people’s lives as computers or smartphones have had in the past.
Among China’s most advanced projects are those by Xiaomi and Fourier Intelligence. Xiaomi is working on its CyberOne, a robot that is supposed to be capable not only of perceiving space in 3D, but also of recognising individuals and interpreting their gestures, expressions and emotions.
Combined with artificial intelligence, it could one day interact directly with humans.
For its part, Fourier Intelligence is preparing to launch its first humanoid robot, the GR-1, specialised in medical actions, capable of moving at five km/h and carrying loads of several dozen kilograms. Its first deliveries are scheduled for 2024.
With this announcement, China also intends to take the wind out of America’s sails and become the world’s leading market for humanoid robots. In the USA, too, there are many ambitious projects in the pipeline.
The start-up Figure has already developed a first prototype robot with “human” measurements (1.70 m, 60 kg) and equipped with fingers rather than grippers, to handle various objects even more effectively.
Eventually, Figure’s aim is to produce the world’s first commercially viable autonomous humanoid robot, i.e., one that is also financially “accessible.”
Other American companies, such as Boston Dynamics, Agility Robotics and Tesla, are also working on similar humanoid robot projects, capable of lifting, handling and moving heavy loads.
These robots, which already seem spectacular on paper, could soon see their capabilities boosted by artificial intelligence. OpenAI, the publisher of ChatGPT, has announced that it has invested in the Norwegian start-up 1X Technologies, with the aim of developing a two-legged robot endowed with unprecedented intelligence for this type of device.