By Hilary Farah and Nantong Shiang
BEIJING/HONG KONG, Sept 17 (Reuters) – An American who wants to invent a lifelike robot says he can find money to do so because “I have to be the guy who’s the CEO”, and with his aircraft-sized body, its colours and advances will blow a hole in existing technologies.
His self-titled “robot”, 5,262kg (9,300 lbs) tall and dressed like a mummy, must first have some ambition, says David MacDonald.
“Something that goes in and out of a given plane is different from stuff that goes in and gets out of a plane – are we going to try and mimic something to be different?” he said.
MacDonald has raised more than $38 million, largely through crowd-funding sites such as Y Combinator and Weibo, which he calls the Silicon Valley of China.
“It’s been really cool … someone else’s algorithm, someone else’s tool set, someone else’s infotainment system, someone else’s found a shape they can emulate,” he said.
MacDonald, a 27-year-old personal trainer, says his robot, a prototype from the Nest Labs division of Google, can walk, talk and switch to another mode by clocking pedestrians, racing runners or leaving some telephone messages.
Using 22,000 LEDs, a 3D simulation, cameras, weights and motors, he said he intends to put a bionic eye on the robot, an athlete can press a button and “he goes from VR to RF…and he does it to the last third of the game”.
The technology is so cool, he wants to make it more believable.“If you take the best software engineers out of Silicon Valley, I guess what they’re taking out is actual people,” he said, and said that could explain why competition is brisk: “We’re definitely the next big thing.”
In terms of cost, he said it will run into the thousands of dollars for a working model or prototype.
“I want people to see it not just as cheap, but it can actually be cheaper to put together,” he said.
The process involves talking to a bank manager and using artificial intelligence to adjust the price and timing, “with fun options”.
For those who suggest it could ultimately cost more than $100,000, he said, “yes, we could get you a real human and have him with you”.