In March 2023, Figure, an AI Robotics company, emerged and suddenly introduced its ambitious plan to build Figure 01, an artificial intelligence (AI) humanoid robot that can think, learn, interact, and assist people in various work settings.
Now, the company has released a video showcasing its humanoid robot taking its first steps publically for the first time. The company aims to develop a robot that moves through the world in a natural, human-like way to enable the robot to work successfully in many human environments.
Figure has a practical and realistic vision for humanoid robotics. It is not interested in running, jumping, or acrobatic feats like parkour and backflips. Its robot is designed to be productive and make itself helpful as soon as possible, starting with simple jobs involving moving objects in a warehouse-like setting and then expanding its abilities to take over more and more tasks.
It has expanded its team to 60 members in the past year, hiring experts in various fields of engineering such as AI, controls, embedded software, electrical, mechanical, actuator design, battery, integration, and testing. In May 2023, the company secured $70M in funding and developed the robot in a little over 12 months.
The video below showcases Figure 01 sporting a nice, shiny metal exterior, which is different from the simulated versions shown in prior illustrations of the robot. Additionally, the robot’s major joints appear to be articulated with rotary motors, and it comes equipped with a backpack that houses the battery. The hands have four fingers and an opposable thumb, and each phalange is a simple two-bar design, which simplifies the overall design. Similarly, the foot and ankle is a simple articulating platform that provides the necessary flexibility and support.
The team behind Figure achieved ‘dynamic bipedal walking‘ in less than a year, which is believed to be a record for a brand-new humanoid initiative. Figure founder Brett Adcock says Figure humanoid is also capable of picking things up, moving them around, and navigating the world, all autonomously. However, they have not yet released any videos showcasing these abilities.
Figure 01 uses torque-controlled walking, which means it can adjust the torque at its joints according to the desired speed and direction. This should help Figure 01 to adapt to different environments and situations in the real world, such as working with humans or performing business tasks.
In addition, the robot receives high-level commands about how fast to move, and then it has to plan its motions for balance, foot placement, and how to move its hands. This way, Figure 01 can walk stably and robustly without being disturbed by external forces or uneven terrain.
Overall, Figure 01 brings together the dexterity of the human form and cutting-edge AI to go beyond single-function robots and lend support across manufacturing, logistics, warehousing, and retail.