Andra Keay, Managing Director of Silicon Valley Robotics, has said that what we really need is a $50,000 humanoid robot. She has also listed the companies that she believes are closest to achieving this marvel. Why a $50,000 robot? That’s the real cost of one year of work by a human being earning $18.00 per hour. That should therefore, she reasons, be the upfront price of a robot intended to replace a human being.
The price tag
One year of human service seems like a reasonable starting point for the robot. Naturally, there would be costs involved in implementing a robot over the course of a year, but such a robot might also continue to be useful for longer than one year.
There are some humanoid robots currently available (maybe) for $50,000, including the Russian PromoBots, and Shmoon came up with the same price in their economics of robots article. Let’s accept the price as possible, and also as a price that will make humanoid robots economically viable.
Elon Musk claims he’ll be able to produce his version for less than $20,000. His humanoid robot has not yet come to market, though. At this point, actual non-toy humanoid robots that you can put in your shopping cart today cost $960,000.00.
Robots can be bought for $10,000 or $100,000, depending on what exactly you need, and they can be rented as a service. These are not all-purpose humanoid robots, though. These are industrial robots, often just arms, with very specific purposes. The cost of the robot is nowhere near the total cost of installing and commissioning that robot. You’ll need the entire motion control system, for example.
And then what? At the moment, there are many robots that do jobs very well. There are no viable humanoid robots that do jobs very well, unless you accept that looking like a humanoid robot and maybe walking around a little bit can be counted as jobs.
We’re not convinced that humanoid robots will be more useful than the purpose-built robots we use today. Time will tell.
We can support the goal of $50,000 or less as the price tag, though. We’ll be watching for that.