On January 3rd, the Mobile ALOHA, a universal robot developed by Google's DeepMind team in collaboration with a Chinese team from Stanford University, went viral across the internet. The global audience marveled at the robot's ability to cook and perform household chores, raising questions about the era of humanoid general-purpose robots.
In the video, the accelerated Mobile Aloha robot smoothly executed various non-standardized tasks, including frying shrimp, cleaning the table, washing dishes, and arranging furniture. According to the project team, to achieve these functions, experimenters first operated the robot to learn the process of each task 50 times. After collaborative training, the robot achieved a success rate of up to 90% in autonomously completing complex tasks like frying shrimp, placing pots, calling elevators, and more.
The team also designed a remote operating system for ALOHA, allowing simultaneous control of the base and two arms. This enables users to remotely manipulate the robot for tasks such as laundry, automatic charging, using a vacuum cleaner, watering plants, loading and unloading dishwashers, and using a coffee machine. With further training and hardware/software upgrades, ALOHA is expected to achieve more autonomous functions in the future.
The team stated that ALOHA, as a lightweight robot, weighs only 75 kilograms and can exert a pulling force of 100 Newtons at a height of 1.5 meters. It can move at a speed of 1.6 meters per second, similar to the average walking speed of a human. The robot can carry a maximum load of 100 kilograms and work for up to 12 hours.
According to the team, the entire ALOHA system costs only $32,000. Moreover, the overall solution is entirely open source, providing all hardware installation tutorials, including 3D printing. Compared to existing dual-arm robots, which can cost up to $200,000, ALOHA is significantly more affordable, as reported by Venture Beat.
It’s worth noting that the cost of the entire set of components can be further reduced. Current data from Trossen Robotics website indicates that the current procurement cost of the entire system is less than $20,000, and buyers can directly order ALOHA from the website. This price is approaching the expected price of Tesla’s Optimus Prime series of robots. This suggests the possibility of future affordable solutions for humanoid robots based on the mentioned technological path.
In September 2022, at Tesla’s AI Day, Elon Musk announced that the expected price of the first-generation humanoid robot, Optimus Prime, would be below $20,000. However, the performance of the first-generation Optimus Prime in the demonstration was not entirely satisfactory. One prototype could walk on the stage, while the other could only move its arms. In December of the same year, Musk released a prototype video of the second-generation Optimus Prime (Optimus Gen 2), stating that it had many upgrades compared to the first generation. The weight was reduced by 10 kilograms, the movement speed increased by 30%, and the mobility was significantly improved.
Other Related Projects are Also Progressing Rapidly
In July 2021, Chinese company UBTECH unveiled its latest generation product, Walker X, at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC). The robot is 1.30 meters tall and weighs 63 kilograms, equipped with 41 high-performance servo joints forming nimble limbs. It has a multi-dimensional perception system, including multi-dimensional force feedback, multi-eye stereoscopic vision, omnidirectional hearing, and inertia, ranging, and other perception systems. It can achieve smooth and fast walking as well as precise and safe operations. It has undergone training and testing in smart factory scenarios and made an appearance at the closing ceremony of the 2023 Grand Games.
In November 2023, at the 27th China (International) Small Motor Technology Symposium and Exhibition, the 21st Institute of China Electronics Technology Group Corporation also showcased its first-generation humanoid robot, “Dianke Robot 1.” The robot has 39 electric joints, with a maximum load of 5 kg for a single arm and 10 kg for both arms. It can walk stably on uneven surfaces such as slopes, gravel, and grass, demonstrating dexterous manipulation abilities like holding cups and carrying boxes. According to Dr. Jiang Zhiyong, an engineer at the Robot Engineering Center of the 21st Institute of China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, the humanoid robot will be able to understand human voice commands and perform tasks like pouring water by the first quarter of 2024. It is expected to be applied for practical use in smart logistics production scenarios.
Additionally, many other intelligent humanoid robot projects, including Fourier Intelligence’s humanoid robot GR-1, Leju’s collaboration with DeepOpen’s first humanoid robot based on the open-source Hongmeng, and BYD’s investment in the entrepreneurial project “Zhiyuan Robot” by former Huawei “genius teenager” Peng Zhihui, are progressing simultaneously.
Based on recent breakthroughs in humanoid robots, some industry insiders believe that 2024 may become the “year of humanoid robots.”
According to Li Hang, an analyst at Guohai Securities, humanoid robots are expected to be widely applied in factories in 2024. Simultaneously, Chinese companies actively entering the humanoid robot industry witnessed a significant surge in product releases in 2023, potentially triggering a new wave of industrial development. Taking a long-term perspective, home services are considered one of the most promising application scenarios. In 2024, humanoid robots may witness the inaugural year of large-scale commercialization.
Anticipating the maturation of relevant technologies, the next stage of intelligent robot development is expected to focus on new types of humanoid robots, including robot caregivers.