CETC Robotics (中电科机器人), a robotic unit of CETC (中国电科), said yesterday that it plans to deploy its first humanoid robot model to real-life scenarios for “application verification” starting the first quarter of next year.
The primary scenarios to test the robot, which wowed visitors at a recent industrial conference in Shanghai, will be smart logistics and manufacturing, according to the Shanghai-based company.
“CETC Robotics so far has no plans to mass produce this humanoid robot and ship them to the market,” said Jiang Zhiyong, a chief engineer at the research institute affiliated with CETC Robotics.
Jiang said the robot will be put through its paces next year to gauge its capabilities in performing tasks like material handling, sorting and delivery.
The point is to identify problems in real-world application, he added.
Image credit: Unsplash
Far from mature
Jiang differs from many fellow practitioners in humanoid robotics in that he is more pessimistic, convinced that this domain is still far from mature.
A key obstacle lies in the improvement to core components like motor and servo system that are essential to motion control of the device.
As he sees it, the industry now faces two conundrums.
Motion control has no doubt emerged as a key barrier. Although many domestic humanoid models exhibit adequate stability and dexterity on flat terrain inside labs, they will encounter a much more challenging environment when deployed outdoors.
Perceptive ability of bipedal humanoid robots will be another issue for researchers to tackle, Jiang said.
“Imagine in the future when humanoids roam the streets, how can they effectively recognize traffic lights, sense their surroundings and avoid obstacles?” he asked.
Photo courtesy of CETC Robotics
Is an ecosystem viable or a long shot?
In response to claims that there ought to be an ecosystem around humanoid robotics to accelerate its development, Jiang said he is much less sanguine.
Instead of thriving on its own terms, such an ecosystem can only evolve and mature in tandem with the whole industrial chain, he explained.
“It will be long before humanoids can develop into the next smart terminal that enters every household like smartphone.”
Jiang’s words seem to be an innuendo alluding to Fourier Intelligence, a general-purpose robot developer also headquartered in Shanghai.
Fourier proposed to build an ecosystem surrounding the company’s humanoid robot model GR-1, inviting integrators, large language model developers, and other partners to “enlarge the pie” together.
Alex Gu, founder and CEO of Fourier, once described humanoid robot as the next big thing in tech after smartphone and EV.