S5. Self-driving cars, humanoid robots and AI assistive technology

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Session 5 - Outline for Students

A. Self-driving Cars arrive

Self-driving cars are the most visible example of a mechanical device being given intelligence by AI. This session examines just how close they are and then shows how the same underlying logic extends to humanoid robots and even to AI Assistive Technology.

A1. Video in, action out (Tesla example). For many years it seemed that achieving Full Self Driving (FSD) was far more difficult than had been hoped. Traditional programming techniques just could not deal with all of the millions of 'edge cases' - that is, the rare situations that were different to just proceeding down a well lit road with clear lane markings. Then, everything changed. Elon Musk and his team realised that they could train a neural net on the hundreds of million hours of videos that existing Tesla cars on the road recorded. Of course, that took immense computing power but the result was that thousands of lines of 'old style' code could be discarded.

Tesla with no driver

Below is an example of the stage of FSD at around April 2024. As you see, it is pretty impressive if not yet perfect. Bear in mind though that updates now arrive once every two weeks or so! Also, Elon Musk has announced the launch of his Robotaxi concept on 8th August (8/8) which is an auspicious date in China - a major market for Tesla.

This one is May 2024 on small roads.

Most recent versions of Tesla's 'self driving' car are generally agreed to be superior to the old. This has also given a major headache to many Tesla competitors who do not possess hundreds of millions of hours of driving video to use for AI learning. How then can they train their own systems? It is suggested that many are likely to have to license the technology from Tesla. [disclaimer: the writer owns Tesla shares]

B. There will soon be many Humanoid Robots

The development of humanoid robots has happened very slowly over many years. Suddenly however they are about to appear in many areas of our lives in quite a shocking fashion. The reason is of course the power of AI which has allowed robots to learn how to relate to the world in a way that was never previously possible.

B1. Humanoid robots learn quickly. What does it mean for humanoid robots? Exactly the same process is unfolding. Either humans wear suits with sensors and cameras or the robots learn by self evaluation on a range of tasks. As a result we now see announcements from the main players every few months, or even weeks. Dexterity that used to be achieved only after years of careful engineering now appears almost as a side benefit of training. So it becomes only a matter of time until humanoid robots appear in our midst.

Robots as production line workers

B2. The initial uses. We know that the initial applications will be the 'low hanging fruit' in business. For example:

- warehouse workers carrying boxes and unloading and loading vehicles
- production line work bringing parts to the line and more - shop workers restocking shelves and giving excellent customer service
- car to home delivery once self driving vans are commonplace

So, business and industrial applications will provide the volumes, and that in turn will ensure fast cost reduction. Further down this page we examine some of the main suppliers. As might be expected, this is a very competitive market. Recent price prediction for robots for personal use are in the £ 10,000 to £20,000 range, comparable to a small car. Another interesting prediction was that within 10 years there would be more Humanoid Robots than SmartPhones.

B3. Longer term applications.

Example: Robots as personal trainers. It will be a while until the ordinary home has a full power humanoid robot but we can examine one area where they become directly useful to ordinary citizens. In the UK a personal trainer might cost, say, £ 20 per hour. Please don't complain if you live in a higher cost area, this figure will do for our purposes.

Runner out with her humanoid robot trainer

Imagine then that a local company hires a 'personal trainer robot' and then rents it out to clients who wish company and security when running, as well of course as a fully informed guide with knowledge of all your vital signs. That also has to be worth £ 20 per hour to many end users. Doing some basic mathematics, and assuming a modest capacity of 30 hours per week then the business can produce an income of £ 600 per week, or £ 30 000 per annum.

Suppliers of humanoid robots will almost certainly wish to rent them out to the business, complete with insurance and maintenance, rather than sell them outright. Potentially then even an annual rental cost of £ 20 000 might make everybody's calculation work. Given the competition levels, this is not a hard price to anticipate being reached very soon.

Example: Humanoid robots as carers. For a robot to provide assistance in a person's home, or in a care home, it needs to be able to move fluidly in the same complicated spaces that humans manage every day. That means that it is very likely to be a robot in humanoid form that provides the solution to this difficult problem.

Runner acting as a carer

Why robots rather than people? Clearly there will still be a need for people to work as carers whatever happens with humanoid robots. The best of the latter will have some advantages though.
- potentially available 24 hours a day, seven days a week

- able to monitor vital signs automatically
- with powerful 'consultant level' diagnostic skills
- strong enough to lift a patient on their own
- fully recorded actions by camera and sensors

As with all 'products' the quality of the humanoid robot will depend on budget available and cultural decisions. They should revolutionise care surprisingly soon though in more affluent countries.

B4. The many suppliers of humanoid robots.

This section is intended to show the wide range of companies who are competing to be major players in this space. It also demonstrates how far advanced the leading players are. It really won't be long until we see humanoids competing in the 'Robot Olympics'!

a. Optimus Generation 2. This humanoid robot is from USA based Tesla tesla.com humanoid robot in a video from January 2024. Notice the aspects that they highlight in their on-screen comments. Things like walking speed are vital for any industrial robot in general application. If your job is to fetch a part and bring it to the line, you need to do it as fast as a human could.

b. Figure robot now using OpenAI intelligence. Made by USA company Figure figure.ai. This video from March 2024 shows a humanoid robot in conversation about a task before selecting the correct item and moving it as requested.

c. Digit. Made by USA based Agility Robotics agilityrobotics.com. This video from April 2024 shows a field trial of their robot in an industrial setting. View their other videos for a range of industrial placements.

d. Unitree H1. Chinese company Unitree unitree.com have an impressive offering. This May 2024 video mentions a price from USD16,000 and showcases dexterity and mobility. As in the 'Electric car' market, China will quickly drive down the cost of humanoids.

e. 1X Eve and Neo. This Norwegian company 1X 1X.tech is aiming at both the industrial and home markets. The video is from April 2024 and shows wheeled robot Eve unpacking shopping in a home environment.

f. Sanctuary AI Phoenix Sanctuary AI sanctuary.ai offer a humanoid general purpose robot called Phoenix. This video is from April 2024 showing that robots will start to move at human speed - and beyond.

C. The Urgency of AI Assistive Technology

AI will soon also gives unprecedented support to disadvantaged members of society. It would be unforgiveable if the quality of so many lives could be dramatically improved by technology but then years are lost due to slow rollout and a lack of incentives for the suppliers. There are separate pages for different aspects. This is an area we are actively researching, looking for ways to aid our local community. Some of the pages are still 'works in progress'.

Interesting news that Neuralink has opened a UK patient registry, so pass the news if you know anybody suffering from relevant issues. In addition to potentially restoring motor control they are also looking at blindness. Weblink here: neuralink.com/patient-registry/uk/ .

"Anyone within the UK who is at least 18 years old, who is able to consent, and who has quadriplegia, paraplegia, vision loss, hearing loss, the inability to speak, and/or major limb amputation (affecting above or below the elbow and/or above or below the knee), is invited to participate in the Patient Registry UK"

Neuralink UK Patient registry

AI to aid those with Sight Issues

AI to aid those with Memory Issues