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A humanoid robot is on its way from Mobileye founder

Mentee Robotics hasn’t been in stealth, exactly. The Israeli firm caught a small wave of press at the tail end of 2022, following Tesla’s initial humanoid robotics announcement. As that was the year of the startup’s founding, it didn’t have much to show off at the time. Even so, the firm caught some headlines because its co-founder and chair, Amnon Shashua, founded Mobileye and the well-funded AI firm, AI21 Labs.

On Wednesday, however, the company offered up a glimpse of Menteebot, its own stab at the rapidly growing humanoid category. In its current form, the system certainly represents a dramatically different approach than others on the market. In fact, this is one of those spots where the precise definition of what constitutes a humanoid system gets blurred.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3T9S1Arbdk?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent&w=640&h=360]

It’s worth noting here that the robot on display is very much a prototype -- albeit one its creators believe has made sufficient progress to justify a public debut after two years in stealth. Given Shashua’s resume, two things are predictably front and center with Menteebot: computer vision and generative AI.

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"We are on the cusp of a convergence of computer vision, natural language understanding, strong and detailed simulators, and methodologies on and for transferring from simulation to the real world,” the founder says in a release. “At Mentee Robotics we see this convergence as the starting point for designing the future general-purpose bi-pedal robot that can move everywhere (as a human) with the brains to perform household tasks and learn through imitation tasks it was not previously trained for.”

Mentee Robotics team with its humanoid robot prototype
Mentee Robotics team with its humanoid robot prototype

Image Credits: Mentee Robotics

Undoubtedly, perception and reasoning are two key pillars that are going to drive the evolution of the category, and Mentee has a lot going for it, with regard to pedigree. In addition to Shashua, the founding team is rounded out by CEO and former Facebook AI Research director Lior Wolf and Shai Shalev-Shwartz, a professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel and current Mobileye CTO. That team, in part, has helped the firm raise $17 million, thus far, led by Ahren Innovation Capital.

Mentee looks to be casting a very wide net to start, looking at both the industrial and home markets. Makers of humanoids will generally tell you that the home is somewhere way down the road map. Warehouse and factories are the first stop, given the need for additional labor, and the fact that they’ve got deeper pockets than most consumers and the more structured environments offered by industrial settings.

For now, the company is showcasing how AI models can help the system work through tasks.

Mentee notes:

Transformer-based Large Language Models (LLMs) are used for interpreting commands and “thinking through” the required steps for completing the task. An emphasis is placed on the ability to integrate locomotion and dexterity, i.e., dynamically balancing the robot when carrying weights or reaching out with the hands.

Mentee expects to release a production-ready prototype toward the beginning of 2025.