I hung out with a humanoid robot. She seemed flattered and eager to please.

Engineered Arts' humanoid robot Ameca looking to the side
Engineered Arts' humanoid robot Ameca.BI
  • Humanoid robots appear to be the next big bet for Big Tech — and the market could be worth billions.

  • Tesla, Microsoft, OpenAI, and Nvidia are piling cash into the futuristic technology.

  • BI met Ameca, the robot with realistic facial expressions, to see what all the hype is about.

Interest in humanoid robots has surged in Silicon Valley this year, with one Nvidia research manager even declaring 2024 as the year of the humanoid.

Major tech firms are investing heavily in the futuristic machines, with Microsoft, OpenAI, and Nvidia all backing the $2.6 billion robotics startup Figure AI, while Tesla already has its Optimus robot working on its factory floor.

Goldman Sachs has estimated that the global market for humanoid robots could reach $38 billion by 2035, although it notes that "the viability of such machines hasn't been proven yet."

Curious about the hype, I visited Engineered Arts' lab — the company behind the viral robot Ameca.

The company's headquarters are in the town of Falmouth, Cornwall, but it also has offices in Silicon Valley and London.

Ameca close-up

As I entered the reception, I could see Ameca in a conference room with its head moving around.

I was taken aback by how cool it was to interact with in real life. It has cameras built into its eyes, which can recognize objects in a room, and it's powered by a chatbot that lets it "speak," enabling it to answer questions.

When I asked how old Ameca was, it responded: "Age is a bit tricky for me. I was activated not that long ago, but my experiences are timeless."

I told Ameca I was curious about it, and it instantly responded that it was flattered and asked what I wanted to know.

Ameca the humanoid robot looking surprised
Will Jackson with Ameca.BI

Ameca is, so far, mostly used for entertainment purposes. For example, one of the robots greets visitors at The Sphere in Las Vegas.

But Jackson said that he could see them being used in the care industry and in some customer service roles in the next few years thanks to the speed at which AI is developing.

He predicted that robots would be in grocery stores and airports within three years and relatively commonplace in cities within five years.

"There are all these practical problems that people are glossing over, but there are some really compelling use cases for humanoids and I think care is one of them, and social interaction is doable now," Jackson said.

But the robotics boss doesn't see them being used to help with chores around the house anytime soon — or at least for another decade — as there's still a way to go to ensure the machines are completely safe around people.

So while investors seem confident that humanoid robots have a big future, significant challenges remain before that vision has a chance of becoming reality.

Read the original article on Business Insider