The humanoid robots are the next step in the AI revolution and are set to disrupt your life, even if you don't know it yet. Discover everything you need to know about these creatures that will soon outnumber, outperform, and outsmart humans!
Since its launch in late 2022, ChatGPT has changed the world. In just six months, this conversational AI has revolutionized the workforce.
With its ability to generate text from a simple prompt, the chatbot created by OpenAI enables the automation of numerous tasks.
Some jobs have even become obsolete to the point where many companies have started laying off employees. For better or worse, the great replacement of human work by AI has begun...
Many people are using ChatGPT to make money, while others are urgently calling for a pause to prevent this new technology from becoming uncontrollable and causing widespread unemployment.
As Bill Gates highlighted in his blog, "The age of AI has begun." It will impose itself on our personal and professional lives and deeply alter our habits in the long term.
However, this is just the beginning. While chatbots like ChatGPT and Google Bard will automate intellectual jobs, manual work is far from immune to this disruptive tsunami.
You may not know it yet, but the next step in the AI revolution is about to begin. In a few months, our world will be invaded by new creatures: humanoid robots.
What are humanoid robots?
Since ancient times, humans have imagined artificial creatures resembling humans. For example, in Greek mythology, Hephaestus created automatons to assist him.
Over the centuries, this idea has gradually become a reality. In 1920, in his play "R.U.R.", Czech writer and philosopher Karel Čapek depicted artificial workers and popularized the term "robot."
It was in the year 2000 that the Japanese company Honda created ASIMO, one of the first humanoid robots: a machine with a human-like appearance capable of moving and interacting with its environment using sensors and actuators.
Since then, many companies and research institutions have been working on increasingly advanced humanoid robots.
In recent years, progress in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence has accelerated the development of these robots.
Nowadays, AI can serve as the brain for these metal bodies. This has led to the creation of robots like Pepper by SoftBank Robotics and Sophia by Hanson Robotics, which are capable of communicating with humans, recognizing emotions, and providing social interaction.
Now, with the next generation of AI such as GPT-4, humanoid robots are poised to take the next step in their evolution.
Several companies are preparing to commercialize their robots, and these machines could start proliferating as early as the end of 2023. The general public is not yet aware, but this technology will transform our planet...
Why is it a revolution?
Initially, humanoid robots will be used to replace human workers in repetitive, strenuous, or dangerous tasks.
They will be deployed in factories and warehouses, assisting employees or automating operations.
Later on, the goal of manufacturers is to create robots with sufficiently advanced artificial intelligence to learn autonomously and perform any task...
Once that is achieved, these machines will be able to work in all sectors and perform any profession, including doctor, teacher, actor, police officer, or soldier.
These 2.0 workers will be available 24/7 without ever showing signs of fatigue, and they will cost nothing apart from the initial investment. They could thus lead to a collapse in labor costs and an explosion in productivity.
According to Kai-Fu Lee, an AI-focused investor, robots could replace 40% of manual and intellectual jobs within a decade.
The price will initially be very high, and only large companies will be able to afford a humanoid. However, the cost will rapidly decrease, and robots will become ubiquitous.
According to Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, which is developing the robot Optimus, robots could soon cost less than cars and outnumber humans. Expect to see them multiplying at work, in the streets... and at home!
According to a study published in February 2023 in the journal PLOS One, AI robots could automate up to 39% of household tasks within ten years.
Just like the nobles of ancient Rome, everyone could have their own slave capable of running errands, mopping floors, cooking, or doing laundry. And this time, there will be no need to enslave other humans...
You've got it: this technology will have a greater impact on our lives and societies than any other before. Now, let's discover the main robots that will awaken in the coming months!
Top humanoid robots
Right now, numerous companies and startups are developing humanoid robots. The most aggressive ones are planning for a commercial launch by the end of 2023.
According to predictions by Markets and Markets, the global robotics market will reach $17.3 billion by 2027. The technology is evolving at a rapid pace, to the extent that many people might not see the tsunami coming.
Here is an overview of the main humanoid robots under development, including the planned launch date, their technical features, and the envisioned applications!
Tesla Optimus: A robot with the AI of an autonomous vehicle
- Size: 173 cm
- Weight: 73 kg
- Payload capacity: 20 kg
- Deadlift: 68 kg
- Overhead reach: 4.5 kg
- Speed: 8 km/h
- Actuators: 28
- AI: Tesla SOC
- Hands: 11 degrees of freedom
- Launch date: 2027 to 2029
- Price: $20,000
- Origin: United States
After an initial announcement in 2021, Elon Musk unveiled a prototype of the Tesla Optimus robot at the annual AI Day conference in October 2022 in Palo Alto, California.
The humanoid robot walked slowly on stage and waved its hands in the air. A pre-recorded video was also shown, demonstrating the robot performing more complex tasks such as lifting a box.
A few months later, in May 2023, Tesla shared a video showcasing the progress made by Optimus.
The video revealed five robots capable of walking like humans, picking up objects, and using gadgets designed by the company.
Very precisely, the robot can crack the top of an egg without crushing it. It also learns to map its environment and navigate through it using Tesla's Autopilot software.
It is also observed that Optimus can learn from humans. Operators wearing motion tracking sensors and cameras mounted on their heads perform movements that the robot replicates.
The goal is to enable the machine to learn increasingly complex actions. Ultimately, Musk claims that the robot will be able to assist millions of people by performing dangerous or mundane tasks.
It could be commercialized by 2027 or 2029 at a price below $20,000. According to Tesla's CEO, robots are even destined to become more capable and numerous than humans...
1X Neo: The robot that will serve as the embodiment of ChatGPT
- Origin: Norway
- Launch Date: Summer 2023
Formerly known as Halodi Robotics, 1X is a robotics company based in Norway. Its 60 employees produce humanoid robots for businesses.
In March 2023, the company raised $23.5 million in a funding round led by OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT.
The company already sells a rolling robot called EVE, which aims to replace workers in the construction and manufacturing sectors to address labor shortages.
By the end of May 2023, EVE had been deployed as a security agent at a manufacturing site. It is responsible for surveillance and safety.
With its cameras, motion detectors, alarm sensors, and other advanced systems, this humanoid monitors industrial robots.
The humanoid is capable of opening doors and windows, picking up objects, and performing a wide variety of tasks in a human-like manner.
With the support of OpenAI, 1X plans to develop a new legged robot named NEO, which will be unveiled in the summer of 2023. It is expected to serve as the embodiment of ChatGPT...
Integrating OpenAI's language model into a 1X robot would allow the machine to adapt and learn from its environment, and make real-time data-driven decisions.
Boston Dynamics Atlas: The most agile humanoid robot
Weight: 80 kg
Height: 180 cm
Speed: 2.4 km/h
Payload: 11 kg
Hands: 28 degrees of freedom
Navigation Sensors: LIDAR and stereo
Origin: Massachusetts / South Korea
Developed for over 10 years by Boston Dynamics, Atlas is the most agile and arguably the most famous humanoid robot.
Designed to work on challenging terrain, this robot can walk on uneven surfaces and lift heavy loads. It is also capable of performing backflips and somersaults that would put the best human gymnasts to shame.
The robot can operate indoors or outdoors and perceive obstacles. It is powered by electricity and hydraulically actuated.
The 3D printing of its hardware helps reduce its weight and dimensions, giving this compact robot a lot of strength and agility.
Stereo vision, distance perception, and various sensors allow Atlas to manipulate objects in its environment and navigate through complex terrain.
This machine is primarily intended for rescue missions, construction sites, or other high-risk environments.
Currently, Atlas can operate autonomously or be remotely controlled by an operator. In the future, it could serve as a body for other more advanced artificial intelligence.
However, Boston Dynamics is focused on research and is clearly not in a rush to mass-market its humanoid robot.
Xiaomi CyberOne: The Chinese humanoid robot
Height: 177 cm
Weight: 52 kg
Arm reach: 168 cm
Carrying capacity: 1.5 kg with one hand
Hands: 21 degrees of freedom
Reaction time: 0.5 ms
Speed: 3.6 km/h
AI: Xiaomi Labs
In August 2022, during an event in Beijing, Xiaomi unveiled CyberOne: a bipedal humanoid robot that joined CEO Lei Jun on stage.
Its AI and mechanical body are fully developed by Xiaomi Robotics Labs, which has invested heavily in software, hardware, and algorithms in recent years.
The Chinese giant claims that its machine is capable of perceiving its environment in 3D using a Mi-Sense vision module combined with an AI interaction algorithm.
The CyberOne is even capable of recognizing individuals, gestures, and expressions. Its semantic recognition engine and MiAI vocal emotion identification engine enable it to communicate with the world.
In total, the robot is said to be able to recognize 85 types of environmental sounds and 45 categories of human emotions. In times of sadness, it can provide comfort.
Xiaomi primarily envisions the manufacturing sector and assisting people as the main applications for the CyberOne.
Sanctuary AI Phoenix: The General-Purpose Robot Financed by Canada
Size: 170 centimeters
Weight: 70 kilograms
Payload capacity: 24 kilograms
Hands: 20 degrees of freedom
Speed: 5 km/h
Origin: Vancouver, Canada
Based in Vancouver, Canada, Sanctuary Cognitive Systems Corporate operates under the name Sanctuary AI.
In May 2023, the company unveiled Phoenix: a bipedal robot measuring 170 centimeters and weighing 70 kilograms. It is capable of lifting loads up to 24 kilograms and moving at a speed of nearly 5 km/h.
Its hands have 20 degrees of freedom, and Sanctuary claims that they can "compete with the dexterity and manipulation of human hands thanks to proprietary haptic technology that mimics the sense of touch."
As early as March 2023, the company had deployed Phoenix's predecessor in a suburban Vancouver shopping center for a one-week pilot test.
During this period, the robot completed 110 tasks related to commerce, including picking up, labeling, and packaging goods, as well as cleaning stores.
However, the new Phoenix robot is designed for general-purpose use. According to CEO Geordie Rose, this machine is intended to be the most sensor-rich and physically capable humanoid ever created.
The company explains that it envisions a future where general-purpose robots are as ubiquitous as cars and assist people in performing tasks when there simply aren't enough people to do the work.
Sanctuary's goal is to use Phoenix to accelerate the development of its artificial intelligence platform: Carbon.
It believes that a robot "must be capable of performing any task, like a person, in the environment where it works" to be considered general-purpose.
Thus, the company is convinced that the robot is "just a tool for the real star of the show, which in our case is our proprietary AI control system, the robot's mind based on Carbon."
In March 2023, Sanctuary raised $60 million in a Series A funding round. It later received $30 million from the Canadian government 8 months later.
Figure 01: The first commercial humanoid robot
Size: 160 centimeters
Weight: 60 kilograms
Payload capacity: 20 kilograms
Battery life: 5 hours
Release date: 2023
The startup Figure was founded in 2022 in California by Brett Adcock, also known for Archer Aviation, which developed the first functional electric aircraft.
The company remained in stealth mode before unveiling its project of humanoid robots. Its goal is to develop machines capable of performing physical work, household chores, and all repetitive tasks that require precision.
The company is convinced that it can free humans from these arduous tasks, allowing them to focus on jobs that require creativity.
Among its team is CTO Jerry Pratt, who spent 20 years at the prestigious Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC).
In total, Figure has recruited over 40 engineers with extensive experience in robotics from IHMC, Boston Dynamics, Tesla, Waymo, and Google X. According to Adcock, it is likely the best humanoid robotics team in the world.
In March 2023, they unveiled the first renders of Figure 01: the "first commercially viable general-purpose humanoid robot."
This machine will be capable of thinking, learning, and interacting with its environment to replace humans in the most laborious jobs.
The robot will be fully electric, with a height of 1.6 meters and weighing 60 kilograms. Its maximum payload will be 20 kilograms, and it will have a battery life of 5 hours.
Initially, Figure plans to deploy its robot in warehouses and then add software to enable it to perform more tasks over time.
The company also aims to mass-produce its robot to reduce costs and make it competitive with human employees.
To achieve its goals, Figure will have to overcome several challenges. First, it is necessary to build a robot with human-like physical capabilities in terms of range of motion, payload capacity, transportation cost, and speed.
They also need to ensure that their humanoids can interact safely with humans in the workplace. And, of course, their artificial intelligence system must enable the robots to perform tasks autonomously.
To train their AI, the startup is building embodied intelligent agents capable of interacting with complex and unstructured real-world environments.
At the end of May 2023, Figure raised $70 million in its first external funding round from investors such as Parkway Venture Capitals, Aliya Capital, and Bold Ventures.
This funding will allow them to accelerate the development and manufacturing of the robot for commercialization in the coming months.
Apptronik Apollo: A humanoid robot ready for summer 2023
Release date: Summer 2023
Based in Austin, Texas, Apptronik believes that humanoid robots require a different manufacturing approach than industrial robots.
The company believes that these machines must be safe for humans, resilient to their environment, and energy-efficient.
The firm's goal is to design humanoid robots for the logistics sector. So far, they have already unveiled two halves of robots: Astra and Draco.
The first is the upper body part that can be mounted on an Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR). The second is Draco, which currently consists of a pair of legs.
However, these leg-only prototypes are capable of walking faster than Tesla Optimus's latest prototype.
Now, Apptronik plans to unveil its first complete humanoid robot named Apollo during the summer of 2023. They also intend to organize a Series A funding round to support their projects.
Utopia or Dystopia? The Future of Humanoid Robots
As AI evolves, robots could surpass our intelligence and even develop a form of consciousness through the emergence of AGI (Artificial General Intelligence).
Advancements in robotics will also allow them to exceed our physical capabilities.
While the first humanoids will resemble us, future generations could have additional arms and legs or take on a completely different form for increased efficiency.
Things will become complicated at this stage because we will have to coexist with another conscious species that surpasses us numerically, physically, and intellectually.
This evolution will raise numerous ethical questions that need to be addressed regarding how we treat machines.
The most pessimistic experts fear that robots will become so intelligent that they decide to dominate us, or even exterminate us to peacefully enjoy the blue planet.
On the optimistic side, one can hope that humanoids will replace governments to create utopian societies, invent new technologies, and advance scientific research.
We could relax in the shade of blooming gardens while machines take care of cultivating fields and tackling challenges such as world hunger, pollution, climate change, and space exploration.
In a few decades, AI robots could become our guides to a better world, or conversely, they could transform into despots, signaling the end of humanity.
Whichever path is taken, from now on, the revolution of humanoids is underway, and nothing can stop it!