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Humanoid Robots

May 12, 2024

First of all, Happy Mothers’ Day to all of the wonderful moms out there!

While mothers may be irreplaceable, for some things, humans in general are. My wife recently had a layover in Seoul. She mentioned it was teeming with robots. There were robots that provided directions, and robots could help take carry-on luggage to the gate which meant she could focus on our three-year old who was with her. They weren't “humanoid” in that it didn’t have arms and legs, but they could communicate in multiple languages using natural language processing. The little robot helpers could therefore with basic airport guidance tasks and alleviate some work of human employees.

The use of humanoid robots will only increase over time as the cost of human work goes up, while technological improvements will simultaneously increase the performance of and drive down the cost of robots (see chart below). Goldman Sachs estimates that just over the past year, humanoid robot manufacturing costs have plunged 40%.  Some of the use cases now are more gimmicky (like the bartender robot), but others are genuinely useful for customer service, like the aforementioned airport robot, and what is likely to be a major use case, patient care robots.

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While we have not gotten to a point where machines can understand complex human thoughts and feelings, we have gotten to a point where they can do basic human activities. Furthermore, they can do so 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with the only “rest time” being recharging or replacing batteries. Humanoid robots are not widely in use, but some companies are beginning to test them to make up for worker shortages. Amazon, for example, has a humanoid robot called Digit that can assist in warehouse jobs. They are also being considered for jobs that may be considered the “3 Ds” of robotics: dull, dirty and dangerous. In other words, jobs that humans wouldn’t want.

To summarize, some of the benefits of humanoid robots are:

  • Efficiency

    • No rest and an always on workforce

  • Cost savings

    • After the initial purchase cost, robots can work longer than their human counterparts

  • Safety

    • Robots can be sent in for tasks that may be too dangerous for humans (including in outer space).  ​​

  • Data collection

    • Information gathered over time can be used for analytics and/or improved customer service

Somar has no intention of using robots any time soon. We like doing the “dirty” work of understanding a company, and industry and analyzing potential future outcomes. What may be useful though is a robot barista that can make my café lattes. But for now, a Nespresso machine works just fine.

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