"How to Create a GPR" Part 2: A Sense of Touch

Previous Posts in this Series:

As mentioned in the first post of this series, human-like senses are one of three critical components needed when creating humanoid general-purpose robots.

Sanctuary AI is focused on making our technology as capable and versatile as possible. We have state of the art equipment that brings sight, hearing, and speech capabilities to our pilots and to Carbon™, our revolutionary AI control system. Extending our own sense of sight, hearing, and speech is something with which most of us are very familiar. We are already used to using technology to break down physical barriers and extend our senses across the globe through home security systems, video calls, social media live feeds, and video games on a daily basis. Those concepts are no longer extraordinary, but what is novel is the idea of adding the sense of touch.

The sense of touch is hugely important. The human hand has orders of magnitude more sensory (afferent) neurons coming from tactile receptors in the hand to the brain than it does motor (efferent) neurons coming from the brain to the muscles. It turns out, the sense of touch is critical for dexterous manipulation. For example, have you ever wondered how you are able to find objects in your pocket or in the dark, or how clumsy your hands are when they are numb from the cold? The sense of touch is how.

For our pilots, we use Haptx glove technology to send them sensory input from the hands of the robots as they interact with objects in both the physical and virtual world. In order to capture touch data from the hands on Phoenix™ robots, we use technology from a company Sanctuary AI recently acquired, Tangible Research. Tangible is best known for its industry-leading haptic technology for robotic hands and is a key part of our ecosystem

Nearly all work is delivered through hands–in fact, 98.7% of all work requires fine manipulation. Most companies developing humanoid robots focus primarily on gross motor skills, like walking. However, Sanctuary AI has taken a unique approach by first tackling the more difficult challenges, like creating dexterous human-like hands. Our dedication to creating the world’s best robotic hands is not something we take lightly: in this video we posted, you can see just a small snapshot of the calibration and testing process for one of our hands right before it gets installed on Phoenix. Our “hands first” hardware approach creates a direct path to being able to assist with the widest variety of tasks, including (but not limited to) retail work, medical assessments, cleaning, warehouse activities, hospitality/food preparation, maintenance with hand tools, lab tasks, agriculture-related labor, and customer service, and is one of the leading reasons why we have been able to deploy technology to customer sites

Tangible Research aptly fits into our strategy by providing Sanctuary AI robots with touch sensors that can transmit the same kind of information to the AI control system that a person's fingers do to their brains. As said by our CEO, Geordie Rose, “We acquired Tangible Research to help us implement the best possible haptic technology into our systems. You may have seen Tangible technology already, as there is a widely shared video of Jeff Bezos piloting a system Tangible developed. Sanctuary AI robots can see, hear, feel, and to a certain extent, understand the world. But this is not enough. They also need to be able to use their hands just like we do…Robots without human-like hands simply can’t do much. In some real sense, from the perspective of doing real work, the rest of the robot is only there to get the hands to do the work that needs doing.” 

To learn more about other companies in the Sanctuary AI technology stack, please read “Building an Ecosystem Designed to Build a Human-Level AI” by Geordie Rose. Sanctuary AI has recently launched a new podcast series, which will feature occasional visits from expert guests from their ecosystem; visit sanctuary.ai/podcast to subscribe to the Sanctuary AI Ground Truth Podcast. 

Ben Reed
Sanctuary AI


Sanctuary is on a mission to create the world’s first human-like intelligence in general-purpose robots that will help us work more safely, efficiently, and sustainably, helping to address the labor challenges facing many organizations today. Sanctuary's growing list of customers and investors represents a wide variety of industries across Canada, the U.S., and other countries around the world.

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