Why Accenture is Investing in AI-Powered Humanoid Robots

Companies with an interest in supply chain, including Accenture, are investing in AI-driven robotics to improve manufacturing, retail and logistics

For decades, we humans have discussed the prospect of robots ‘taking our jobs’, rendering us useless, unwanted and no longer needed to ensure our employers – or should that be former employers? – can run their businesses effectively.

However, only in recent years, amid the rapid emergence of technologies like generative AI, machine learning and automation, have these fears surrounding job security been legitimised. 

The key, as countless leaders and experts have been keen to point out, is finding ways for these game-changing innovations to complement the efforts of humans, as opposed to replacing them. 

Ultimately, the goal within most organisations will be to free their people from monotonous tasks so they can focus on carrying out more intuitive work, while also addressing the labour shortages being seen across numerous industries.

Robotics are being used to boost logistics warehousing

Robotics set to boost logistics warehousing

The aforementioned reasoning goes some way towards explaining why so many companies with an interest in the supply chain space are investing in robotics, recognising its potential to improve manufacturing processes, retail and logistics warehousing operations.

Accenture, for example, recently made a strategic investment in Sanctuary AI through Accenture Ventures, its venture capital investment arm.

Sanctuary AI is a developer of humanoid general-purpose robots that are powered by AI and can perform a wide variety of work tasks quickly, safely and effectively.

“AI-powered humanoid robots are essential to reinventing work and supporting human workers as labour shortage is becoming an issue in many countries and industries,” explains Joe Lui, Global Advanced Automation & Robotics Practice Lead at Accenture.

“Sanctuary AI’s advanced AI platform trains robots to react to their environment and perform new tasks with precision in a very short time. We see huge potential for their robots in post and parcel, manufacturing, retail and logistics warehousing operations, where they could complement and collaborate with human workers and automate tasks that traditional robotics can’t.”

Joe Lui, Global Advanced Automation & Robotics Practice Lead at Accenture

Harnessing the power of AI

In Accenture’s Technology Vision 2024 survey, an overwhelming majority (95%) of executives agree that making technology more human will massively expand the opportunities of every industry. 

The resulting report calls for a balanced, ‘human-by-design’ approach that ensures companies use technologies fairly and responsibly. 

Sanctuary AI is one of several businesses making this a reality by embedding explainable AI in its general-purpose robot, Phoenix, in order to feature reasoning, task and motion plans that can be defined and audited.

Recently recognised as one of TIME magazine’s Best Inventions of 2023, Phoenix can perform a multitude of work tasks. For instance, at a Mark’s retail store in British Columbia, Canada, it performed more than 100 tasks including choosing and packing merchandise, and correctly cleaning, tagging, labelling and folding items – all using robotic hands that rival human hand dexterity. 

Phoenix is powered by Sanctuary AI’s control system, Carbon, which mimics subsystems found in the human brain such as memory, sight, sound and touch, and translates natural language into action in the real world.

Sanctuary AI's Phoenix robot in action

Accenture betting big on robotics

It’s not just Sanctuary AI in which Accenture has invested when it comes to robotics. 

The professional services giant has previously invested in other robotics areas through Accenture Alpha Automation, a recently-formed joint venture with Japanese robotics leader Mujin.

Accenture has also acquired Eclipse Automation, a specialist in cutting-edge manufacturing automation solutions, in Canada, and Pollux, a driver of digital transformation in factories, in Brazil. 

Sanctuary AI became the latest company to join Accenture Ventures’ Project Spotlight, an engagement and investment programme that connects emerging tech startups with Accenture’s Global 2000 client base in order to fill strategic innovation gaps. 

Project Spotlight offers extensive access to Accenture’s domain expertise and enterprise clients, helping startups harness human creativity and deliver on the promise of their technology.

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