Figure, a burgeoning robotics company, has introduced its Figure 01 humanoid robot and demonstrated its ability to walk on two legs in a public setting for the first time.
Over the past year, Figure has experienced rapid growth, expanding to a team of 60 employees with expertise spanning various engineering domains, including AI, controls, embedded software, electrical, mechanical, actuator design, battery technology, integration, and testing. In May 2023, the company secured a $70 million funding round and managed to develop the robot in just over 12 months.
The Figure 01 robot showcases a polished metal exterior, a departure from the simulated versions seen in earlier illustrations. It’s worth noting that the product’s finish may undergo further refinements before its release. Notably, the robot features articulated joints with rotary motors, and it incorporates a backpack to house its battery.
A quick breakdown of the degrees of freedom (DoF) in this robot includes 7 DoF in the arms, 3 DoF in the waist, 6 DoF in the legs, ankles, and feet, 0 DoF in the head, and 6 DoF in the hands, amounting to a total of 41 DoF. The hands are equipped with four fingers and an opposable thumb, and the phalanges have a simplified two-bar design. The foot and ankle employ a straightforward articulating platform.
One remarkable achievement is the rapid development of dynamic bipedal walking within a year, touted as one of the swiftest turnarounds in humanoid robotics history. Figure 01 employs torque-controlled walking, guiding the robot by specifying torque at its joints rather than dictating its speed or direction. This approach enhances the robot’s adaptability to real-world scenarios, particularly when interacting with people and performing business-related tasks.
The robot receives high-level commands regarding its movement speed, subsequently autonomously managing aspects like balance, foot placement, and hand movement to maintain stability amid external disruptions or changes in ground elevation. The Figure team has also been working on “whole body reasoning,” incorporating natural arm swinging and achieving torso and pelvis motion by regulating angular momentum, rather than following predetermined paths.
Additionally, Figure is concurrently developing manipulation capabilities for the robot’s arms, hands, and fingers, which will run independently from the walking and navigation aspects. The company’s construction of a demonstration warehouse at its Sunnyvale headquarters indicates that Figure 01’s primary market opportunity upon its 2024 release is expected to be in logistics and warehousing.