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The newly unveiled Sanctuary AI Pheonix humanoid robot is the sixth generation of solutions from Sanctuary AI. The company was formed in 2018 with the mission to develop a general-purpose humanoid robot, in a form factor similar to an average-sized human. The company started with the development of the hand and iterated the platform to include arms head and torso. This latest version is the first to feature humanoid legs.
Phoenix is controlled by Carbon, an AI control system that gives Phoenix human-like intelligence and is designed to position Phoenix for a number of human-scale applications. Sanctuary has demonstrated Phoenix in hundreds of different situations for customers in more than a dozen industries.
“We designed Phoenix to be the most sensor-rich and physically capable humanoid ever built and to enable Carbon’s rapidly growing intelligence to perform the broadest set of work tasks possible,” said Geordie Rose, co-founder and CEO, of Sanctuary AI. “We see a future where general-purpose robots are as ubiquitous as cars, helping people to do work that needs doing, in cases where there simply aren’t enough people to do that work.”
The key to Phoenix is in the hand design
The company started with the design of human-like hands for the robot. The robotic hands feature four fingers and a thumb, with similar dimensions to a human hand. The hand design on Phoenix features 20 degrees of freedom, and the strength to lift up to 55 lbs (20.5 kg) (in combination). Integral to the design is also proprietary haptic technology that mimics the sense of touch.
The company believes that to function in a human-scale world, the hands of the robot need to mimic the function of human hands.
Following the design of the hands, the company then built functional arms and a torso/head. For the longest period of the company’s existence, it presented the robot without legs, as it perfected the Carbon AI software and the hand-eye coordination of object manipulation tasks.
The Phoenix model is the sixth generation of the platform and is the first robot model to be complete with legs and worthy of being characterized as a “humanoid” bipedal robotic system.
The dawn of general-purpose robots
Sanctuary AI is an early leader in the emerging general-purpose robotics market. The primary definition of “general purpose” is the emphasis on creating a technology that can conduct physical work just like a person. The market for general-purpose humanoid robots is quickly evolving with a number of competitors decloaking and highlighting their intentions to pursue this market.
The most mature of the humanoid robots currently on the market is Digit from Agility Robotics. The other humanoid robot contenders include Tesla, Apptronik, PAL Robotics, Xiaomi, UBTECH, Figure AI, and Boston Dynamics.
There are also a number of companies, including Sarcos and Nauticus, who are developing teleoperated, human-scale robotics solutions that enable human operators to perform tasks in hazardous environments from a safe distance, although neither of these two solutions qualifies as “general-purpose” robots.
“To be general-purpose, a robot needs to be able to do nearly any work task, the way you’d expect a person to, in the environment where the work is,” said Rose. “While it is easy to get fixated on the physical aspects of a robot, our view is that a robot is just a tool for the real star of the show, which in our case is our proprietary AI control system, the robot’s Carbon-based mind.”
In March 2023, Sanctuary AI completed its first commercial deployment, a significant milestone in the company’s progress toward full commercialization. At that same time, Sanctuary AI announced it was taking an open and collaborative approach to building a new ecosystem in AI and robotics. To fulfill the ambitious mission of creating human-like intelligence in general-purpose robots, Sanctuary AI assembled a robust coalition of best-in-class vendors and partners — including Apptronik, Bell, Common Sense Machines, Contoro, Cycorp, Exonetik, HaptX, Magna, Tangible Research, Verizon Ventures, and Workday Ventures.
Last spring, the company announced the completion of its Series A funding round. In November, the company received a $30 million Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) contribution from the Government of Canada, bringing Sanctuary AI’s total funding to over $100 million. Sanctuary AI is active in its next funding round to fuel its mission. Interested parties can learn more at the official company website.
- Height: 5’7″ (1.7 m)
- Weight: 155 lbs (57.9 kg)
- Payload: 55 lbs (20.5 kg)
- Max walking speed: 3 mph (1,300 mm/sec)