How soon will we have humanoid robots?

 septiembre 7, 2021

This technology is expected to be on the market in a few years, with prices of up to 4,000 dollars.FacebookTwitterLinkedIn

humanoid robots

Conceptual design of a humanoid robot. (Photo: iStock)

Jansel Jiménez Bulle
Jansel Jiménez Bulle

Su corazón apunta a lo esencial, pero no se especializa en nada. Caminar y platicar para él son actividades cuyo significado trasciende este mundo. Químico de la UNAM.

Elon Musk has a new goal in mind: humanoid robots. The entrepreneur unveiled a “Tesla Bot” prototype that aims to perform “repetitive” tasks that so far only humans can do. It’s expected to be ready next year.

So, it would seem that the technology is there for humanoid robots to do the housework, Jetsons style.

However, they are still expensive products that are mainly used in industrial or service environments, according to Mauricio Corona, president of BP Gurus, a Mexican company developing humanoid robots.

That’s the problem. This technology is within reach, but out of our price range.

Yes, humanoid robots already exist.

“You can buy a humanoid robot starting at 8,000 dollars, with the most advanced costing around 30,000 dollars. None of them have feet to walk with, because the market doesn’t value that,” says the expert in an interview for Tec Review.

According to Corona, adding feet to them and making them capable of climbing stairs would increase their cost by around 45,000 dollars, without necessarily implying a better ability to solve a given problem.

For these reasons, most humanoid robots have wheels and arms, which is enough for them to fulfill their function.

“I believe that, in a couple of years, we’ll be able to make these humanoid robots for around 4,000 dollars, so that they’re more accessible to certain types of households,” adds Corona.

The reality is that there are already so many prototypes in the industry, and the technology is now ready to be deployed in homes and offices, Corona emphasizes. But the final step of commercializing them has yet to be taken.

“High technology doesn’t become widespread until a suitable cost-benefit ratio is found. However, if you’re asking whether you could already have a Rosie the Robot at home, the answer is yes,” says the specialist.

Tasks they can already accomplish

BP Gurus have six different humanoid robot models. They operate as waiters, guides, couriers, and security guards, to name a few of their functions, which may vary according to the needs of their customers.

“We’re often asked for robots to act as guides at conferences, museums, or at presentations in industrial zones where they want to meet safety requirements,” explains Yasmeen Chong, CEO of Artificial Intelligence at BP Gurus, in an interview for Tec Review.

These robots are programmed to recognize commands in Mexican Spanish and can respond and even crack jokes.

According to Alejandro González García, a mechatronics engineer from Tecnológico de Monterrey, humanoid robots with full mobility of feet and arms, which could do things such as sweep, mop, clean windows, and prepare food, still require further refinement in design.

It’s estimated that this type of humanoid robot will be available in about 25 years. It so happens that there aren’t yet batteries powerful or durable enough to fulfill all these functions,” he points out in an interview for Tec Review.

Replicating human movements requires a lot of electricity that, until now, has only been achieved by plugging them in, which reduces robot autonomy.

“The simple process of moving around and taking a few steps requires a lot of energy consumption, because the robot carries its own weight when doing so,” says González García.

That’s why battery-powered robots with wheels, such as those from BP Gurus, have limited movement which is not as complex as that performed by humans.

However, on the current commercial level, the important thing isn’t the robot per se, but the type of solution sought.

“So, based on this, a mapping can be made, and the most appropriate robot type can be chosen. The problem can be addressed depending on the specific needs,” says Corona.

This is why robots that can do housework, although not humanoid ones, have become popular. Their movements are simple, they don’t use a lot of energy, and they handle specific tasks such as sweeping or vacuuming.

The path has already been paved. It won’t be long before humanoid robots are able to walk it as if they were real flesh-and-blood people.

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