A $16K 4-foot humanoid robot is available.

No one is quite sure what you're supposed to do with the robot, but you can buy one.

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Would anybody purchase a $16,000 humanoid robot? The latest Unitree product hopes you will: “Humanoid agent AI avatar,” or robot, Unitree G1. Unitree is the “budget Chinese option” for robots. You get some great robots for your money, but corporate advertising materials are scarcely written in English. Spot-knockoff Unitree Go2, a $1,600 robot dog, has been sold with flamethrowers or military guns.

Unitree’s commercial film exhibits great capabilities for an inexpensive robot. From flat on the floor, it can stand up. Like the latest Boston Dynamics Atlas video, the G1 stands up strangely. G1 lies face-up on the floor, raises its knees, places its feet flat, and pushes up on its feet to create a tripod with its head still on the ground. From there, it leans its knees forward in a limbo-like gesture to raise its head and body using core power.

Budget robots like the G1 have basic walk cycles. It always walks, stands, and “runs” in a half-squat with legs front and knees bent. The balance is good, but someone kicks and punches the robot in the back and chest. It takes the abuse with a few steps back and keeps going in both circumstances.

Is this humanoid robot useful? Is it a toy? Its height, 4 feet 2 inches, makes many jobs impossible in real life. If the water won’t be a problem, you’ll have to hope it can reach the bottom of the sink before asking “Can it do the dishes?” Reaching a kitchen cabinet’s bottom shelf is difficult. Maybe you can teach it stool usage. Small size is crucial to low pricing. Unitree’s other adult humanoid robot, the H1, costs$90,000.

Other statistics in the confused and poorly put-together spec sheet include a two-hour 9000 mAh battery. Some sources indicate the weight as “35kg” or “47kg”—77- to 104 pounds. Real component model numbers for the vision system are the Intel RealSense D435 depth camera and Livox-MID360 lidar puck. The lidar puck location is intriguing. The robot’s face is clear glass, and its head is empty save for a “brain” on top. The lidar puck looks ahead through the face glass from the brain’s underside. Odd robot design.

The robot can run 2 m/s or 4.4 mph. About a leisurely jog. It can lift 2 kg, or 4.4 pounds, according to the spec sheet’s “Arm Maximum Load“. All joints are 160-310 degrees. This will need a lot of code, but Unitree isn’t clear on how. You’ll likely utilize Unitree SDK like robot dogs. You may also browse the Unitree H1 developer docs for a preview.

Despite the peppy marketing music, Unitree’s film shows the robot clumsily attempting a few activities that don’t go well. The robot takes a walnut from a dish, places it on a countertop, and smashes it to bits, leaving a mess. Karate-chopping the bottle top “opens” a glass Coke bottle, shattering the rim and spilling the liquid. Next, the robot flips a dry slice of bread in a skillet on a turned-off electric burner with an astonishing wrist flick. It then puts the uncooked bread on a platter like it achieved something. Later, it slams a hot soldering iron into a wire with one hand, making a wire heated for no purpose because it doesn’t utilize a second hand to keep solder up.

It couldn’t accomplish a single job in this carefully selected commercial film, despite these promising starts. Most of the time, the robot makes a mess. It also warns: “Some of the sample functions of this video are still being developed and tested.” The robot appears to be performing duties on a kitchen countertop, however, it is only 4 feet tall, making a typical ~3-foot countertop elbow height for the robot. These chores are done at a sit-down table while standing.

I doubt the $16,000 robot had hands, even if it completed those jobs. Some sections of the movie and press photographs show functional three-fingered hands that can grip and damage items, while the other half has placeholder hands. The arms are fitted with off-the-shelf, five-finger mechanics gloves, so “hands” is exaggerated. Under “Single Hand Degrees of Freedom,” the $16,000 SKU is vacant on the spec document, therefore these gloves are empty. A “Three-fingered dexterous hand” and “tactile sensor arrays” to halt crushing are listed in the “G1 EDU” version, which costs unknown.

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