Sanctuary AI installs “the world’s first human-like robot” at Langley Mark’s. 2023

The Vancouver startup collaborated with Canadian Tire to accomplish over 100 jobs with its technology.
Artificial intelligence is always an effective tool to separate a group. While some appreciate its transformational powers in terms of efficiency, decision-making, and development opportunities, others are alarmed by the hazards it poses to employment, privacy, security, and ethics. Nonetheless, regardless matter where you stand on the continuum, it is difficult to dispute that robotics businesses like Sanctuary AI are making great progress.

Sanctuary, created in 2018 by former BCBusiness 30 Under 30 recipient Olivia Norton, D-co-founder Wave’s Geordie Rose, and others, has been attempting to develop the world’s first general-purpose robots with human-like intelligence. Ben Reed, the company’s chief marketing officer, claims that the majority of robots are developed with a specific function in mind. (Imagine AI that does predictive writing while you send text messages or AI that provides restaurant suggestions based on the restaurants you’ve already visited.) Sanctuary, however, has been struggling with the issue, “Is it conceivable to develop technology that can reproduce, in the same form and function as a human, the manner in which a human does tasks?”

The answer turns out to be “yes.”

Last week, Sanctuary successfully implemented their technology (a humanoid general-purpose robot) in a Langley Mark’s shop. Reed, who has been with the firm since 2021, said, “We’ve been able to demonstrate that our technology has the physical capacity to perform hundreds and hundreds of various activities that people are generally capable of performing.”

During the week-long experiment, which was conducted in conjunction with Canadian Tire Company, the robot completed 110 activities, including packaging items, stacking shelves, cleaning, labeling, and folding. Sanctuary has previously replicated the business environment in its labs, where, as Reed explains, robots go about every day, in order to get the desired result.

This is the first time the 100-person business has deployed robots externally, or “the first time that technology of this type has been deployed anywhere in the world, at a commercial client facility,” according to Reed. This was accomplished by mimicking the limited number of ways in which a human hand may function: “We’ve duplicated what we think to be the world’s best hands,” he asserts.

Despite the fact that the robot in this deployment was controlled by a human, ensuring that the hardware can emulate the dexterity and manipulation skills of human hands is a crucial aspect of developing general-purpose intelligence. As a result, enterprises do not need to rethink their operations in order to implement this sort of technology; they can continue business as normal. This is because these robots are designed to perform in human-designed surroundings.

Reed adds that Sanctuary’s technology is helping to fill “millions of unfilled job vacancies.” “The point is not that our technology is designed specifically for the retail sector, but rather across almost all industries,” he says, noting that Sanctuary’s technology is helping to fill “millions of unfilled job vacancies.” In other words, he is referring to occupations that firms struggle to fill (or retain employees in) because they are “boring, unclean, or hazardous.”

In reality, Sanctuary received a $30 million boost from the federal government’s Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) in order to solve “labor-related difficulties in the economy” last year. The Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) supports such large-scale initiatives. By 2018, the firm has garnered more than $100 million in investment and had collaborated with an “ecosystem of companies” including Bell, Canadian Tire, Verizon Ventures, and others to reach its current state.

So, is this situation somewhat unsettling? Maybe. Uncertainty is unpleasant, yet it is a component of change, innovation, evolution, etc. This is a great moment to be working in the sector, especially in British Columbia.