Advances in robotics given major showcase at Future Investment Initiative in Saudi Arabia

Advances in robotics given major showcase at Future Investment Initiative in Saudi Arabia

Following the announcement of the new super city NEOM yesterday at the Future Investment Initiative, artificial intelligence and the rapid acceleration of robot technology were a major focus at the second day of the international event in Riyadh. 

Delegates were shown the latest in robot technology from Hanson Robotics’ humanoid, ‘Sophia Robot’ to Boston Dynamics’ latest dog-like robot, ‘Spotmini’, while speakers gave a deeper insight into the extent of the potential offered by the future integration of artificial intelligence with robotics technology.

Heralding artificial intelligence and robotics as the biggest evolution in mankind’s history of invention, Masayoshi Son, chairman of SoftBank Group Corp, Japan, said: “Mankind created tools, on the premise that we will always be smarter than our tools.

“We are now entering an era where the tool will soon be smarter than mankind.

“Every industry is set to be redefined.”
Son continued to emphasise: “In the last ten years, we have seen the average lifestyle transformed dramatically following the introduction of smart phones.

“Robotics will be bigger than this, and bigger than the internet.

“Mankind’s brain is not evolving to have a greater capacity, but technology is.

“Although we will always the creative edge, the deep learning of artificial intelligence – where computers can teach themselves – is the birth of super intelligence impacting memory and communication capabilities.

“Softbank is teaming up with a growing list of partners in an information revolution.”

Softbank’s Vision fund, which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, reported an estimated 22 per cent return, projected at around $3 billion, in the last five months.

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Driven by a belief in the enormous potential of the artificial intelligence industry, Son is set to issue several new funding rounds in the near future.

The robot demonstrations surprised many in the audience, specifically around the level of sophistication that has already been reached.

Panellists detailed the various intricacies of human movement, perception and autonomy, and how these are starting to be replicated in robot form.

“We started with robots that can exert pure physical power.

“We then controlled the movement by modelling what is essentially the brain.

“Where we are now is adding on the layers of expertise that a system needs to craft something, react to situations or plan results,” said Ulrich Spiesshofer, chief executive, ABB Group as he demonstrated Yumi, a ‘co-bot’ capable of interacting with humans.

“When Yumi recently conducted an orchestra that included renowned Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, it took only 17 hours for it to learn how to do this.

“Only five years ago this would have taken five-to-ten years of programming input.”

In a further demonstration, a robot solved a Rubik’s cube puzzle by taking photographs from six different angles, illustrating situational recognition and the calculation of logical steps.

With an average human brain having an IQ of 100, the first generation of artificial intelligence-enabled robots will likely have an IQ count of 10,000.

The application of this technology will most likely continue to impact transportation, logistics and construction in the first stage, with more ‘human’ applications following closely behind.

It is the application of robotic technology to further technological environments that is the real driving force behind the AI revolution.

The potential to combine 3D printing with big data and robotic output could automate healthcare solutions, for example.

“One trillion boxes are being moved around the earth daily, and robotics will certainly help speed up this process.

“However, one of the most important applications will be in taking care of people with movement issues,” said Marc Raibert, chief executive of Boston Dynamics as he demonstrated ‘Spotmini’.

“We are putting robots to work.”

Powered by the Public Investment Fund, the Future Investment Initiative is taking take place from October 24th-26th in Riyadh.

The invitation-only event is being organised in the context of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, a blueprint that is already charting the path for the kingdom to harness its strategic location and strong investment capabilities.