Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
    Focusing on Functionality: The Evolution of Humanoid Robots in Real-World Applications

    The dream of creating humanoid robots that are not only human-like in appearance but also practical and useful has captivated engineers for decades. Inspired by science fiction, the quest to build such robots has recently gained momentum thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence. However, many current prototypes are still far from being efficient and practical in real-life scenarios. Despite this, a few startups are determined to push the boundaries and continue their pursuit of creating highly functional humanoid robots.

    One such startup is Agility Robotics, whose co-founder and chief robot officer, Jonathan Hurst, emphasizes the importance of creating robots that can operate in human spaces rather than simply resembling human beings. Their warehouse robot, Digit, is designed to pick up and move tote bins efficiently. In fact, Amazon has already announced plans to test Digits in its warehouses, and Agility Robotics has opened a factory for mass production.

    Unlike Agility Robotics, Figure AI is taking a more traditional approach, believing that true humanoids are necessary for effective navigation in workplaces, homes, and societies built for humans. The company aims to develop a commercial robot that can be iterated upon to perform multiple tasks, thereby compensating for the declining workforce due to decreasing birth rates worldwide.

    While Figure AI has yet to present a market-ready prototype, they remain optimistic about the potential demand for humanoids in various industries. CEO Brett Adcock believes that if humanoids can fill the gaps in industries facing a shortage of workers, the market for these robots could be massive.

    Other industry players, such as Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk, are also striving to develop humanoid robots. Tesla’s Optimus humanoid is still a work in progress, but neighboring company Apptronik unveiled its Apollo humanoid in an impressive video demonstration.

    Despite the skepticism surrounding the creation of humanoid robots, innovators in the field emphasize the valuable insights gained along the way. Marc Raibert, co-founder of Boston Dynamics, emphasizes that the process of building humanoids is about learning not only about design and operation but also about how people respond to them and the critical underlying technologies required.

    In conclusion, while the journey to create functional humanoid robots continues, there is a growing understanding that functionality and practicality should take precedence over solely achieving a human-like appearance. The evolution of humanoid robots has already led to the development of useful non-humanoid robots that are proving valuable in various industries.


    1. What is the goal of Agility Robotics?

    Agility Robotics aims to create robots that can efficiently operate in human spaces, focusing on functionality rather than appearance.

    2. Which company plans to iterate on commercial robots like an iPhone?

    Figure AI plans to develop a commercial robot that can be iterated upon to perform multiple tasks, similar to how an iPhone receives regular updates.

    3. What challenges do humanoid robots face?

    Humanoid robots face challenges in terms of mobility, dexterity, perception, and intelligence, with manipulation and understanding of the world being particularly difficult.

    4. Are there any practical applications for humanoid robots currently?

    While market-ready humanoid robots are still in development, some companies, such as Agility Robotics, are testing their robots in real-world scenarios, such as warehouses.