Apptronik's new Apollo humanoid can carry 25% more than the Tesla bot
Humanoid robots: so hot right now. Apptronik out of Austin, Texas, has pulled the covers off Apollo, a friendly-faced general purpose humanoid designed to hit the workforce and start making a useful impact as quickly as ... inhumanly possible?
Apollo stands 5.67 ft (173 cm) tall and weighs 160 lb (73 kg). Running for around four hours per swappable battery pack, it's capable of lifting up to 55 lb (25 kg) – making it a decent whack stronger than both Figure's 01 and Tesla's Optimus robots, which claim a 45 lb (20 kg) max payload.
It can lift that 55 pounds all day long, too, without needing an ice pack. "People don't want to do robotic, physically demanding work in tough conditions, and they shouldn't have to," said Apptronik CEO and co-founder Jeff Cardenas in a press release. "Humanoid robots are not just an answer to this challenge, they are a necessity – and because of our deep robotics lineage, Apollo is uniquely positioned to quite literally step in and make an impact."
The lineage Cardenas refers to includes some 10 robots the company has built since it was first spun out of the Human Centered Robotics Lab at the University of Texas at Austin. These include exoskeletons, bipedal leg systems, and the Astra, a cute little waist-up torso robot with capable hands and the ability to perform work via telepresence by an operator in a VR rig.
Cute is important to Apptronik. The company wishes to emphasize that its bots are here to help, and designed to work alongside humans. We can only hope the little colored rings surrounding Apollo's eye-cameras don't have the ability to turn red, and that the little screens on its face (E Ink) and chest (OLED) can't display the Jolly Roger.
Modularity is a focus too; you'll be able to order your Apollo as a full-body walker, a torso-on-wheels trolley bot, or a completely stationary version that can be plumbed straight into the power at your worksite.
As you can see in the videos, Apptronik is targeting Apollo initially at tasks involving boxes and crates – picking them up, moving them around, putting them down. That alone could make it fairly useful in terms of loading and unloading vans, picking stock boxes and stacking them on pallets, or moving tools and materials around a worksite.
Just getting them to do one thing well enough to be useful will be a huge challenge, but Apptronik is looking for development partners to start adapting the hardware to tackle different problems and expand its capabilities.
How exactly they'll do this is not yet clear. Indeed, it's hard to tell exactly what Apollo's current capabilities are or how the robot's been trained, if it's been trained at all. The fact that the Astra was demonstrated while being operated through VR telepresence would seem to indicate that these things will pick up capabilities via a piloted learning system, something like what Sanctuary AI is developing for its Phoenix humanoid. But as yet, we don't know.
According to TechCrunch, the machine we're looking at is alpha hardware, and we won't be seeing the production version of Apollo before the end of 2024, with Apptronik targeting commercial availability in 2025.
Either way, it's abundantly clear that humanoid hardware, at the very least, is getting pretty close to work-ready, just as AI models are having their first real breakthrough moment and beginning to proliferate across business, entertainment, education and industry.
Humanoid general-purpose robots could become some of the most advanced, and broadly useful machines we've ever made – or some of the most frightening. It'll be interesting to see how the development curve goes over the next couple of years, whether the dominoes will fall as quickly for these blue-collar robots as they seem to be falling for white-collar language models like GPT.