Apptronik, a company previously noted for its exoskeletons and bipedal locomotion research for U.S. government entities, has announced the release of its newest creation, the Apollo humanoid robot. This marks the firm's entrance into the commercial humanoid robot market.
Originating from the University of Texas at Austin's Human Centered Robotics Lab in 2016, Apptronik's founders include CEO Jeff Cardenas, CTO Nick Paine, and advisor Luis Sentis. Before Apollo's inception, the company ventured into humanoid robotics with Astra, a humanoid torso research platform developed in 2020. Astra, which was employed to improve dual-arm coordination and hand-eye precision, paved the way for Apollo by addressing and refining key perception and grasping abilities.
Apollo boasts a height of 5 feet 8 inches and a weight of 160 lbs. With the ability to lift 55 lbs, Apollo operates on a swappable battery projected to last 4 hours. Although pricing remains undisclosed, CEO Cardenas hinted at a cost comparative to a new car.
A highlight of Apollo's build is its innovative actuation system. Replacing commercial rotary joints with their proprietary linear actuator design in the robot's joints, Apptronik aims to improve system reliability and reduce both material costs and complexity.
In terms of functionality, Apptronik intends to utilize Apollo for "gross manipulation" tasks in warehouse settings, primarily moving items like boxes and totes. Cardenas emphasizes the robot's immediate focus on tasks that don't demand intricate hand and wrist movements, although long-term plans hint at potential collaborations for more sophisticated hand development.
Highlighting their broader vision for Apollo, Cardenas expressed the ambition to design a versatile robot that can undertake a wide range of human tasks, particularly those that are less desirable. The company envisions Apollo handling tools and operating in diverse environments, shifting from a multipurpose to a general-purpose robot.
Safety remains paramount for Apptronik. Drawing from their exoskeleton development experience, the company has equipped Apollo with vision perception and force sensing capabilities. These features ensure the robot slows down or stops altogether when in proximity to humans, enhancing collaborative operation in shared spaces. If faced with a fall, Apollo's design allows it to minimize potential harm to itself and its surroundings.
According to Cardenas, for humanoids to be truly effective, they need to seamlessly collaborate and function in human-centric environments, underscoring the company's commitment to safety and adaptability.