Monday, December 11, 2023

Figure promises the first commercially viable general-purpose humanoid robot

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is unarguably the most exciting field in robotics. And humanoid robots, robots resembling the human body in shape, are one of the most popular forms of AI. However, a lot of work, finances, and research are put into making these humanoid robots.

The field is already crowded with a number of companies with interesting projects, such as Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot and Tesla’s much-hyped Optimus prototype designed to be “general purpose.”

This week, an AI Robotics startup, Figure, has unveiled Figure 01, the world’s first commercially viable general-purpose humanoid robot. The company says this humanoid will have the ability to think, learn, and interact with its environment.

It is designed for initial deployment into the workforce to address labor shortages and, over time, lead the way in eliminating the need for unsafe and undesirable jobs.

Founded by Brett Adcock, former Founder of Archer Aviation and Vettery, in 2022, the startup plans to revolutionize the field of robotics. It is spending a lot of time and money to build a general-purpose bipedal humanoid robot, meaning it is not designed with a specific task in mind. Of course, this is not an easy dream in any respect.

“Today we’re seeing unprecedented labor shortages with tens of millions of unsafe or undesirable jobs in the U.S. alone,” says Adcock. “If we want continued growth, we need more productivity – which means more automation. Once Figure’s humanoids are deployed to work alongside us, we’ll have the potential to produce an abundance of affordable, more widely available goods and services to a degree the world has never seen.”

The new company brings to the table a 40-person staff with a combined 100 years of AI and humanoid experience from Boston Dynamics, Tesla, IHMC, GoogleX, Cruise, and Apple SPG. The Figure team completed the full-scale humanoid build in just six months and will begin testing in the coming months.

The company’s first humanoid robot, Figure 01, combines the dexterity of the human form with cutting-edge AI to go beyond single-function robots and lend support across manufacturing, logistics, warehousing, and retail. In the longer term, Figure’s humanoids will play an important role in additional areas such as assisting in the home, caring for the elderly, and potentially even building new worlds on other planets.

Currently, the team only has CAD designs of Figure 01, but the eventual plan is for the robot to be 1.6m tall, weigh about 60kg, and run for about five hours on a single battery charge. The robot’s appearance looks and gives a feel similar to Tesla Bot.

“We believe general-purpose humanoid robots have far more potential than single-purpose robots, which are currently ubiquitous within the field,” says Adcock, Figure’s Founder, and CEO. “In early development, the tasks Figure’s humanoids complete will be structured and repetitive, but over time, and with advancements in robot learning and software, we will expand capabilities and eventually see tasks being performed better than humans.”

When asked about the future of Figure, Adcock believes “we have the potential to impact the largest industry on the planet and contribute to the early stages of AI and robotics to help lead the way for a positive AI future for humanity.”