Sam Holstein

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New Cutting-Edge Highly Humanoid Robots Make Science Fiction a Reality

Robots have existed for decades now, but they’ve always been obviously different than humans. Even the best attempts at humanoid robots fell far short, with robotic faces that don’t move much and gestures that look like mechanical movements. Engineers have been telling us for years how important humanoid robots will be for a wide variety of applications, but it was hard to imagine these mechanistic robots being useful for much of anything besides novelties.

Starting today, that isn’t true. UK-based company Engineered Arts released their hyper-realistic humanoid robot Ameca, and it looks and acts disarmingly like a regular human. This 41-second video will blow your mind.

Engineered Arts YouTube Channel

Who would have thought that science fiction would become reality within our lifetime? Highly humanoid robots are being developed and manufactured right now with capabilities that were once only dreamed of in popular culture. You could imagine being comforted or guided by an Ameca.

In fact, Ameca is so compelling that I’m fighting the urge to naturally use human pronouns for it. My instincts tell me I should call this robot “her,” “he,” “they,” something that acknowledges the human-ness of its posture and expressions.

Ameca is now available to order for anyone who wants one. The price is variable depending on what you want your Ameca to look like or do, but a representative from Engineered Arts said all units cost north of $100,000.

If you ask me, that’s a pretty accessible entry price for such an advanced humanoid robot. It’s easy for me to imagine a robot of this caliber costing 5x that amount. At $100,000, it will be easy for companies from all kinds of industries to order robots to service high-paying customers and clients. The richest among us may be interacting with robots regularly in five to ten years.

Engineered Arts made a special effort to make Ameca diverse. They intentionally designed it to have no particular race or gender, making Ameca equally approachable for anyone in the world. (Customers can order their Ameca units to have whatever racial or gender features they select). This was a thoughtful thing to do in a world that’s becoming increasingly aware of the social implications of robotic and AI-powered technology. Most new technology is unwittingly developed with a male, eurocentric emphasis (consider that VR headsets cause motion sickness far more often in women than men).

Robots like Ameca are especially important for pandemic care. Robots can’t contract or carry COVID-19, and this makes them ideal for caring for the elderly or people who are vulnerable to the virus. The implications of this, though, are worrying. Human contact — real human contact, with real humans — is vital for our emotional and social health. Solitary isolation, even in well-fed and comfortable conditions, is known to cause a variety of severe health problems. Pawning off the care of vulnerable people to robots seems like asking for an array of dangerous externalities.

The science-fiction future we imagine isn’t quite here yet. Ameca can’t yet walk — it’s stuck where it’s left standing. Engineered Arts wants to make an Ameca that can walk, but they say walking is an especially complicated robot activity, and they haven’t been able to crack that problem yet. That being said, with Ameca’s modular design, it’s more than possible to make an Ameca that can walk in the future, which they plan to do.

When it comes to the future of robotics, few things are more intriguing than Ameca. It would not be an understatement to say that fully realistic humanoid robots could change every aspect of life on Earth, even if some of those changes are still centuries off. But as Ameca shows us, some of those changes are much closer than they appear.