Scientists from the Shanghai-based AI and robotics firm, Fourier Intelligence, have created a human-looking robot that they claim can aid China’s elderly and disabled citizens.
Revealed at the World AI conference, GR-1 is the size of a small adult and can perform a variety of simple functions, such as walking, holding objects and avoiding obstacles. It can also perform more specialised tasks which can be pre-programmed, like helping a customer in and out of a wheelchair or bed.
GR-1 stands just over 164cm tall and weighs 55 kilograms. Company representatives told press media it intends to manufacture 100 units by 2023.
China is in the midst of one of the worst peacetime demographic crises in history, with the country recording its first population drop since famine-struck 1961.
Recently updated figures show the country experiences only 6.77 births per 7.37 deaths, and women give birth to an average of 1.03 children in their lifetime – a total fertility rate of roughly 2.1 children per woman is required to maintain a stable population.
The number of people aged 60 and over in China will rise from 280 million to 400 million by 2035, according to the National Health Commission.
Fourier Intelligence began development for GR-1 in 2019 when CEO and founder, Zen Koh, set out to create a humanoid robot that could provide companionship and assistance to elderly or otherwise isolated individuals.
It can walk at a modest five kilometres per hour and its joints possess about 40 degrees of rotational freedom – roughly the same as the Tesla robot, according to the science and technology publication, New Atlas. The joints are powered by electric actuators, the largest of which delivers a reported 300 Newton meters of torque.
The company also creates devices and exoskeletons that aid rehabilitation and physical therapy like RehabHub, which provides several integrated therapies for arms, legs and digits.
While speaking with the media, Zen said customers would eventually be able to interact with fully autonomous robots.
Technology entrepreneur and founder of Figure, one of the world’s foremost electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle firms, Brett Adcock, said Fourier Intelligence has established a solid base to work from, mastering basic movements such as walking, standing, and gripping objects. However, teaching robots more sophisticated actions like avoiding obstacles would take further testing.
While Fourier Intelligence is still in the early research and development phase, it did say it expects to begin a two- to three-year prototype testing window soon, with full-scale production to follow, according to an Interesting Engineering article published in July.