Chinese Tinmen Seek AI Brain

Chinese Tinmen Seek AI Brain

A Chinese firm with plans to mass-produce its bipedal robots before the end of the year is seeking chatbot partners to give their machines AI brains.

Fourier Intelligence unveiled the GR-1 at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in July. While the company was able to demonstrate a range of motion in its bi-pedal robots, their tinmen still lack a key component: a brain.

A robot without a brain

Chinese firm Fourier Intelligence has a bi-pedal robot capable of walking at 5km an hour while carrying a 50kg load. 

Alex Gu, founder and chief executive of Fourier, admits the human-like machines were a slight departure for the firm, which more commonly manufactures rehabilitation robotics for medical use. 

“It is an unprecedented attempt by us – we barely had any reference when it came to the technology,” Gu told the South China Morning Post on Sunday.

Before the unveiling of its GR-1 robot, the company produced a smart exercise bike, wireless robotic gloves, and computer-guided devices to rehabilitate arm and leg movement.

For Gu, these rehabilitation machines provided a stepping stone to humanoid robotics.

“Many technologies used in rehabilitation robots are essentially applicable to humanoid robots,” Gu said. “Humanoid robots require very good motors that are both powerful and light, and we can develop them ourselves.”

The company based in Shanghai now wants to scale up production of its robot, with mass manufacturing of the robot before the end of the year. But Fourier is missing the AI-brain that would catapult the GR-1 to the next level.

Adding the mind, but whose?

Fourier intends to continue perfecting the body and hardware of GR-1. Creating the “brain” and speech centers of the robot is a job better left to AI developers.

Fourier and its chief strategy officer Zen Koh already have some potential partners in mind, but the company does not intend to wed itself to any single solution.

“We’re hoping to work with all the major ones and … as a system, be open,” Koh said.

With the added benefits of a speech center, the range of applications for GR-1 would only increase.

As a medical firm, Gu already sees applications for his machines in medicine, including elderly care. Speech centers would allow the machines to better integrate with patients. Besides medicine, Gu touts his machines for careers in education and guest reception.

Strong competition in the field

The field of human-like robotics is becoming increasingly competitive. 

Boston Dynamics revealed its Atlas robot in 2013 and refined its machine through several progressively more intricate and complex designs in the intervening period. Based on video evidence, Boston Dynamics is the leader in the field. They are not to have it all their way, however.

In August last year, Chinese firm Xiaomi released its humanoid robot, the CyberOne. For now, the robot does little more than walk, but Xiaomi continues to perfect its machine.

In December 2022, Elon Musk unveiled Tesla’s Optimus robot, which, in truth, couldn’t do much at the time.  

However, the company is making clear progress with recent updates showing limited functionality, including walking and lifting boxes. This could be enough for Musk, who says that Optimus is not intended to “have great intelligence” but instead help humans with “boring, repetitive or dangerous tasks.”

Much like Fourier, Musk has suggested his Optimus robots will commence production in 2023, though this should be taken with a grain of salt as Musk habitually underestimates the length of the development cycle for the products his companies are working on.

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.