Humanoid Robots in 2022: From Tesla’s Optimus Prime to Xiaomi’s CyberOne

Since the first “Transformers” came out, many images in the movie have been sought after by many fans, and different service products have been derived from this. For example, Beijing Universal Studios has created robots such as Megatron and Optimus Prime. to attract traffic.

In the near future, Musk’s Optimus (“Optimus Prime”) prototype will also be available on September 30, 2022.

However, although they are all called Optimus, Musk’s Optimus Prime is not the transformation of Transformers in the movie into real life, it should be said that it is the creation and birth of humanoid robots in the era of artificial intelligence.

When it comes to humanoid robots, Musk’s entry is not too early. After all, the concept of the humanoid robot Tesla Bot (Optimus) was announced in 2021.

But as early as the last century, humanoid robots have been explored and born in the world.

Looking back at the birth and development of humanoid robots, in 1927, Westinghouse Corporation of the United States manufactured the world’s first humanoid robot, but this robot could not realize the walking function, and could only lift the receiver to answer the phone.

It wasn’t until 1937 that Westinghouse developed a humanoid robot capable of performing 26 different everyday activities.

After research by Swedish inventors, NASA, Waseda University in Japan, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in the United States, Honda, Engineered Arts in the United Kingdom, Agile Robotics in the United States, and Ubtech in China, humanoid robots began to be able to walk, speak, and face Identifying, carrying objects, dancing, running, have more and more perfect functions.

At the same time, humanoid robots are getting closer and closer to the structure of human facial features. They can simulate complex body movements and postures, perform breathing and sweating, and can also maintain the temperature of human skin, and the expressions they create are more realistic.

After decades of development, humanoid robots originally originated in Japan have been gradually controlled by American companies, moving towards a more perfect, anthropomorphic, and intelligent direction.

As far as the current market size is concerned, compared with industrial robots, although service robots with humanoid robots as the highest form started later, the current market size of service robots is obviously larger.

Data show that the global robot market has reached US$31.258 billion in 2018, and is expected to reach US$45.135 billion in 2022, a year-on-year growth rate of 10.09%.

In the global robot classification, the market sales of industrial robots, one of the two major categories, in 2021 will be nearly 13.923 billion US dollars, with China as the leading country, followed by Japan, the United States, South Korea and Germany.

Another important category of robots, service robots, is dominated by the United States. In 2021, the global service robot market sales of nearly 27.074 billion U.S. dollars, the U.S. accounted for 40.09% with 10.854 billion U.S. dollars.

Compared with industrial robots, which are mainly used in industrial environment manufacturing fields such as welding and assembly, service robots pay more attention to human-computer interaction and serve public fields such as logistics, food delivery, welcoming guests and personal or family fields such as education, educational affairs, and elderly care. etc.

As the most advanced form of service robots, humanoid robots will also be widely used in the field of life and production, integrating into human companionship, education, entertainment and other life and various commercial applications with higher interaction, perception and control capabilities.
When Tesla’s Optimus Prime meets Xiaomi’s Tie Da

The development of humanoid robots has attracted the attention of many investors and the public, and now and in the future, Optimus Prime developed by Tesla may cause a wave of heated discussions.

Regarding Tesla’s research on humanoid robots, although Musk announced the concept of the humanoid robot Tesla Bot (Optimus) on Tesla AI Day on August 19, 2021, officially announcing his entry into the field of robotics, according to Musk’s statement , on September 30 this year, the public will be able to see the Optimus prototype on display.

In just one year, Tesla was able to launch the prototype of this humanoid robot. It can be said that it not only paves the way for the accumulated experience of previous research institutes, but also demonstrates the technological strength behind Tesla.

According to the parameters of “Optimus Prime” announced by Tesla, this humanoid robot is not tall, with a height of only 1.73 meters and a weight of 56 kilograms, but its head is equipped with a display screen, which can display information and also Equipped with 8 cameras as visual sensors.

In order to better control the limbs and torso, Optimus Prime is equipped with 40 electromechanical actuators, with a maximum speed of 8km per hour, which is already considered high in the current humanoid robot configuration. And according to Musk’s previous statement that the unit price of Optimus Prime will not be ridiculously high, perhaps lower than the price of a car, this Optimus Prime is not expected to be very expensive.

In contrast, “Beyond Human” represented by Boston Dynamics (after several twists and turns, is now a humanoid robot company under Hyundai Motor Company of South Korea), is currently one of the other major humanoid robot routes.

Its representative product, Atlas, is only 1.5 meters long, but weighs 89 kilograms, has a speed of only 4.8 kilometers per hour, and has only 28 degrees of freedom, 12 less than Optimus Prime.

This may be related to the functional structure of this type of robot. Compared with Optimus Prime, which is suitable for various consumer and commercial scenarios such as housework, express delivery, and industrial production, Atlas relies on more advanced actions such as crossing obstacles, turning around quickly, and jumping. It is suitable for exploration, rescue, scientific research and other fields, and also has extremely high perception algorithm capabilities.
Going back to Optimus Prime itself, this type of humanoid robot will be able to replace humans in dangerous, repetitive, and boring jobs, but according to its current “command-execution” working mode, Optimus Prime needs to be strengthened in terms of real-time sensing of the outside world In the future, it may be applied to the To B enterprise field first, and it may enter the To C consumer end after further research and development.

However, according to the forecast of relevant agencies, Optimus Prime will be completed in 2022 and put into the first version in 2023. Compared with other R&D companies, its progress is still relatively fast.

Compared with Optimus Prime, the domestic Xiaomi humanoid robot CyberOne was launched on August 11 this year one step earlier. However, the Chinese name of CyberOne—Tie Da is not so good-sounding. In terms of equipment, perhaps due to factors such as different uses, various parameters are also slightly inferior.

Compared with Optimus Prime, CyberOne is mainly used in various life service scenarios. It is 1.77 meters high and weighs 52 kilograms. It can recognize 85 kinds of environmental sounds and 45 kinds of human emotions in 6 categories, but CyberOne has only 21 degrees of freedom . The walking speed is 3.6km per hour, but the cost has reached 600,000-700,000 yuan, and mass production cannot yet be achieved.

Overall, Xiaomi’s iron giant, CyberOne, still has a lot of room for improvement in terms of joint freedom, control system, and walking speed.

In addition to Xiaomi, major Internet companies in China have also invested in the field of robotics, such as Baidu robot platform ABC Robot, Ali, and Huawei.

As of the end of June 2022, the domestic robot industry has also achieved 86 financing events in the first half of the year, and the disclosed financing amount is nearly 5 billion to 7 billion yuan. Xiaomi Group, Shenzhen Venture Capital, Alibaba, Hillhouse Venture Capital, Huawei, Tencent, etc. All businesses invest.
Mastering the core technology is the last word

In the era of artificial intelligence, it is not surprising that humanoid robots have received attention and investment from all walks of life. But among many companies, who can stand out and take the lead in leading the entire humanoid robot industry depends on whether they have mastered its core technology.

From the perspective of the industrial chain, the production contents of the upstream, midstream and downstream are different.

The upstream mainly includes various parts and equipment, such as controllers, reducers, sensors, end effectors and servo systems. The mid-stream is the production and integration of robots. After building the body of the robot, it will be integrated into the system so that it can be put into use. Downstream corresponds to specific sales areas. Generally speaking, industrial robots are sold to the field of industrial manufacturing, while humanoid robots are mostly sold to the field of life services.

In this industry chain, the core technology of humanoid robots mainly includes three aspects, one is human-computer interaction, the other is environmental perception, and the third is motion control.

The so-called human-computer interaction is the exchange of information between people and computers.

Humanoid robots not only need to learn to accept fixed commands, but also need to accurately recognize voice and images, receive external information and respond.

Simply understood, the human-computer interaction system includes data sorting, computing power processing storage and smart chips, which perform functions similar to the human brain. A humanoid robot with human-computer interaction functional modules can respond to the applause, language, and actions of the surrounding crowd.

The environmental perception function is like human eyes, ears, nose, skin and other senses. Humanoid robots can sense the outside world through millimeter wave radar, lidar, camera and other components to achieve precise positioning, avoid obstacles, identify objects and other functions.

At present, the humanoid robot sensory system of Boston Dynamics uses millimeter-wave radar, which can work around the clock and is less sensitive to conditions such as light and weather, but it also has the characteristic of being unable to accurately identify the type of target object.

And because advanced automatic driving needs to be equipped with extremely high environmental perception equipment, with the application of laser radar in the field of advanced automatic driving, many people are optimistic about the application and development of laser radar in humanoid robots in the future.

Therefore, Tesla, which has achieved certain achievements in the field of advanced autonomous driving, has rich experience in smart car research and development, and has accumulated rich experience in perception technology and human-computer interaction, so it also has greater advantages in the development of humanoid robots. It’s no surprise then that the Optimus Prime prototype was rolled out so quickly.

As the most important control system, its algorithm flexibility and hardware sensitivity determine the use effect of humanoid robots. By converting electrical energy into mechanical energy, the control system assists the robot to make mechanical movements, such as walking, running, and jumping.

The robot control system generally includes servo system, reducer and other parts. Generally speaking, one degree of freedom corresponds to one servo motor. The higher the degree of freedom, the more actions the robot can do and the higher the flexibility. Regardless of the degrees of freedom required by the fingers, a general humanoid robot needs about 40 degrees of freedom, so in this regard, Musk’s Optimus Prime is still very good.

The reducer can decelerate and buffer the servo motor and other equipment, and jointly complete the motion control function of the humanoid robot.

As far as the mastery of core technologies is concerned, data shows that the localization rates of reducers, servo systems, and controllers in my country are only 36.53%, 24.50%, and 31.20%, respectively, which do not occupy an absolute dominant position. In terms of software algorithms, there is also a certain gap between domestic manufacturers and foreign manufacturers, and they need to continue to make breakthroughs in accuracy, stability and quick response.

However, as far as the current research and development of humanoid robots is concerned, all developments have not been determined.
Can humans and humanoid robots coexist?

Humanoid robots are full of huge profit potential, otherwise it would be impossible to attract so many excellent manufacturers and investors.

In the future, the development and implementation of humanoid robots will inevitably lead to an increase in the demand for core components.

Among them, as the three core components, although the cost of reducer, servo motor and controller can account for more than 70% of the cost of a robot, especially an industrial robot, the gross profit margin of the three is also higher than that of other components, and the market size is also large. bigger.

Taking the servo system as an example, the domestic servo market was nearly 15 billion yuan in 2017 and will reach 20.9 billion yuan in 2022. Relevant agencies predict that from 2022 to 2025, the domestic servo system market will continue to grow at a compound growth rate of 12.6%, and is expected to reach a scale of 30 billion yuan.

In terms of the domestic servo market structure, the market share of the domestic enterprise Inovance has also made a breakthrough, rising from 14.57% in 2018 to 15.9% in the first half of 2021, jumping from fourth to first; Delta’s market share It has also remained in third place.

Overall, the current changes in the domestic market show that the market concentration has decreased, that is, the industry structure has been dispersed, which will also increase the competitiveness of manufacturers.

Under the rising demand brought about by the development of humanoid robots, although domestic enterprises do not occupy a large advantage in multiple links of the industrial chain, they are also expected to “reshuffle the cards” in the future, and it is more beneficial to seize the domestic or even global market s position.

In addition, as far as my country’s current aging situation is concerned, the emergence of humanoid robots will also fill the demand gap in the elderly service market, and play a huge potential under the continued strong medical and public health needs.

The data shows that the compound annual growth rate of domestic service robot sales from 2016 to 2021 has achieved 36%, which is much higher than the global growth rate. With the increasing demand for aging services and the large consumption potential of this group, the market size of humanoid robots is likely to usher in rapid growth in the future.

However, there are good and bad.

Just like the previous worries about “robots replace humans to work and cause employees to be laid off”, such remarks are not absolutely without this risk.

For example, based on Musk’s Optimus Prime’s price of about 170,000 yuan, compared with some people’s annual income of 100,000 to 200,000 yuan, buying a robot can pay back within 1-2 years.

Regardless of robot maintenance and operating costs, it can continue to engage in high-intensity work without a break. It can be seen that robots are also of economic value in replacing part of human resources. There is a high probability that robots will enter homes, logistics distribution, and even industrial production in large numbers in the future. Consumer-grade or commercial-grade scenarios.

According to the McKinsey report, by 2030, nearly 400 million jobs worldwide will be replaced by automated robots. As for where the personnel in the positions to be replaced will go, they may also have to be vaccinated in advance and take preventive and resettlement measures.

In addition to this, there may be widespread concern about the ethical issues involved in robots, which have long been controversial.

In 2021, a South Korean software company launched an AI chat robot, but this robot, which was designed as a young female college student, was sexually harassed online, and the chat robot itself also had problems of discrimination against blacks and homosexuals.

Some people may also worry about whether robots in the future may be uncontrolled, have autonomous consciousness, and harm humans. However, according to the current development trend, it is almost impossible to prevent the development, maturity, and anthropomorphism of humanoid robots. In addition to the pressure from public opinion, the prevention of problems depends on the consideration of enterprises and R&D teams.

If risks such as technology and ethics are well controlled, there is a high probability that the development of humanoid robots will have more advantages than disadvantages.

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