Suzanne Gildert is the CEO of Sanctuary AI which is making Synthetic Humanlike Robots. This is like the kind of human-mimicking robots of the movies Bladerunner and the TV Show Westworld.
Prior to Sanctuary AI, Suzanne was co-founder of Kindred AI. She oversaw the design and engineering of the company’s human-like robots and was responsible for the development of cognitive architectures that allow these robots to learn about themselves and their environments.
Kindred AI is currently mostly involved in tele-operated robots performing work in warehouses.
Before founding Kindred, Suzanne worked as a physicist at D-Wave, designing and building superconducting quantum processors, and as a researcher in quantum artificial intelligence software applications.
Suzanne received her Ph.D. in experimental physics from the University of Birmingham (UK) in 2008, specializing in quantum device physics, microfabrication techniques, and low-temperature measurements of novel superconducting circuits.
Sanctuary AI wants to make general purpose human-like robots
The goal of human-like robots can be seen as being on a spectrum of some existing product.
There are sex-dolls without any actuators or movement. There are more expensive versions that have more realistic texture and feel for the skin and which appear to look more human. More realistic sex dolls have a market of a few hundred per year and some makers in China and Japan might make a few thousand per year.
The robotic actuation sex dolls are rare. There are perhaps produced in the tens per year. Most often they are built for marketing purposes.
However, Sanctuary AI will go far beyond those kinds of products using and applications using advanced robotics, new materials and advanced artificial intelligence.
Applications like human-like elder care companionship and synthetic human alternatives will become possible. Situations that were partially explored in fiction like Bladerunner will become truly possible. The negative situations explored in fiction will be what should mostly be avoided with careful work in real life.
Suzanne Gildert and Sanctuary AI wants to not sell their product but charge for them based on task and time. This kind of renting is how we charge for the gig or by the hour for people.
Fluidic muscle, Human like skin and better actuators
Sanctuary AI is taking fluidic muscle created by the company Festo. Festo has developed a pneumatic muscle that is recreated from a biological muscle. It enables sequences that closely approximate human movements.
The bionic muscles consist mainly of a hollow elastomer cylinder embedded with aramid fibers. When the fluidic muscle fills with air, it increases in diameter and contracts in length, enabling a fluid, elastic movement.
Sanctuary AI is taking advanced 3D printing of carbon fiber to make advanced lightweight skeletal structure in half a day to a day.
They are taking new actuators with magnets.
They are taking the best forms of synthetic skin.
Synthetic skin is one of the areas which will require a lot more improvement to enable human-like synthetic robots.
Suzanne believes we could ten years away from fully human-like synthetic robots.
Applications for human-like synthetic robots
Suzanne discussed virtual teleportation, where people with different skills could beam into a human-like robot for different tasks.
AI could learn from the teleoperation and eventually the humans would not need to be in the loop for some tasks.
I mentioned that the highly valuable skills for remote assistance are currently in telemedicine. Having human-like robots would likely enhance telemedicine. A doctor, surgeon or psychologist could interact more effectively using human-like robots.
There is also the enhancement of video games and theme parks with human-like or fantastical but high fidelity robots. Characters from movies and fiction could be brought to life.
Some of the fantastical could make up for being not quite perfect human imitation. Superhero or magical characters could be created.
Disney had animitronic characters at their theme park for many decades. Human-like robotics could be superior and more flexible interaction than the animitronic routines.
Suzanne indicated that specific people could be modeled for the human like robots. One of the next robots could look like her.
Certain wealthy people could have a use for robots that looked and acted like them. Celebrities could have a need for such robots.