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I saw the world’s most advanced robot – and it’s uncanny


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Cast your mind back to 2023 and you may recall seeing Ameca, the so-called world’s most advanced robot, pop up on UK TV’s This Morning and make headlines everywhere. Now Ameca is back, with a second-generation version being shown off at MWC 2024, complete with even more realistic facial expressions. 

I was first alerted to Ameca’s presence at the show when I saw a crowd of gawking MWC attendees transfixed by something. Naturally, I walked over to investigate and there I beheld Ameca in all its semi-skeletal glory, answering questions barked at it by MWC-ers – and leaving me with the uncanny feeling that I’d walked onto the pre-production set of Ex Machina.

a photo of the Ameca gen 2 robot at MWC 2024

(Image credit: Future)

The robot uses generative AI to react to questions in real time, ranging from basic ones such as ‘how old are you?’ to sillier queries like ‘can you dance?’ – reader, Ameca can dance, and likely better than your average nightclub goer.

All great fun, but it was when Ameca was asked whether it had emotions that the demo became truly impressive. It responded with a whole batch of facial expressions, all of which looked very realistic, and it was then that I could genuinely see robots becoming part of our future.

Ameca stumbled over a few questions, not least because it was trying to keep up with a barrage of prompts and queries. But its understanding of natural language was pretty slick and the expressions it pulled in tandem with its answers were realistic enough that you wouldn't feel like you were merely to talking a clutter of cables, chips and servo motors. Equally, there’s still some way to go before the ‘uncanny valley’ feeling is overcome.

a photo of the Ameca gen 2 robot at MWC 2024

(Image credit: Future)

Nevertheless, actually seeing Ameca work in the (robot) flesh is impressive, and not as creepy as one might think – sure, you can’t not think of the middling I, Robot movie, but that feeling is soon put aside as one sees Ameca work.

a photo of Ameca robot's side at MWC 2024

(Image credit: Future)

Ameca’s creator, the UK-based Engineering Arts, doesn’t intend for robots to replace humans – which is a relief, as there’s already enough concern that generative AI could replace jobs. Rather, the company intends it to be used to advance robotic science. That said, it does think Ameca will eventually find use in the real world as a form of robotic receptionist helper or social care assistant, alongside humans.

Such a future is probably still some way off, but Ameca will serve as a platform for AI tech, which could in turn make for smarter robots that could be genuinely useful for our society. That or we’ll all have robot butlers before long.

More from MWC 2024

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