Make robot dogs affordable! Will this be your first robot dog?

Nov 22, 2021 AI


A few years ago, Boston Dynamics's robotic dog model, Spot, became a YouTube sensation, giving people a glimpse of the vast future of non-humanoid robots. A similar quadrupedal robot had already been developed by some students in China long before Spot became famous.

In 2013, Wang Xingxing, the current founder and CEO of the Chinese firm Unitree Robotics, was already developing the xDog quadruped robot during his postgraduate studies at Shanghai University. "At the time, most of the maneuverable four-legged robots were powered by a hydraulic motor. They were large, as well as expensive. But I found out that if the robots could be run by a battery-powered electric motor, the cost could be lowered, while the robots could be more agile. This was a turning point for the commercialization of this technology," he said.

And by 2021, he has been in business for five years.


The first robot dog you can afford, here it comes!

From R2D2 of Star Wars to Marvin of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the fantasy of robots has run through the entire history of human technology. Whether they are naive and cute, or super deadly, it still seems like an unattainable dream for ordinary people to own the robots in these works of science fiction.

But now that dream seems to have come true.

As a quadruped robot, Go1 weighs 12 kilograms and looks similar in size to a Shiba Inu, but it is obvious that leading such a robot dog out for a run is more stylish. In terms of athletic ability, it can generate a top speed of 17 kilometers per hour, which may bring a lot of pressure to its owners.

Meanwhile, the robot is equipped with a sensory system containing 5 sets of fish eye stereo depth cameras, AI post-processing, and three sets of hypersonic sensors. This well-endowed sensory system helps the robot easily identify its owner.

Its excellent movement capability is based on the new patented design of ultra-lightweight, low-noise, and long-life power joints, as well as the patented heat pipe-assisted cooling system built near the knee motor. With these joint designs, Go1 can not only run and walk, but also make difficult movements such as flips, and fall from a height without damage.

The ISS intelligent accompanying system allows Go1 to always keep in touch with the user, without the need for the owner to turn around from time to time to check if "the dog is lost". At the same time, when in a complex environment, the user can also take the initiative to choose a simple route to help the robot dog pass.

To achieve these capabilities, Go1 is equipped with a 16-core top CPU + GPU "super brain", with its 384 cores reaching a maximum computing power of 1.5TFLOPS.

With a simple accessory, Go1 can help its owner "carry" items weighing up to 5 kilograms. With the mobile app, users can also manually operate the Go1's movement route.

Currently, the Go1 comes in three versions: the $2,700 Go1 Air, $3,500 Go1, and $8,500 Go1 Edu, which is significantly cheaper than other products similar in Europe and America.

Anyway, tech like this shows that quadrupedal robots are quickly turning from novelties to commodities.


Will quadruped robots be the next spree?

Currently, the global industrial robot installation is in the hundreds of thousands of units, with 2.7 million units accumulated over the years. Food and beverage robots are in the tens of thousands, and cleaning robots are in the millions, and all will continue to grow in the future.

But in addition to cleaning robots breaking the million level, in terms of sales volume, the next one to hit the line and break the million level may be the C-end robots, which are inclined to entertainment and recreation.

Wu Ming, an investment partner at Sequoia China, believes that "the key logic of the rise of robots in the B-side is efficiency transformation, replacing repetitive and heavy work by machines so that human work can be transferred to higher value chain work. As robotics continues to evolve, it gradually assists more and more types of work."

She believes that C-end entertainment robots are more oriented toward technology play and companionship. For example, Unitree A1 has the opportunity to be used in home companionship, parent-child entertainment, home security, pet play, and other scenarios, which are more entertaining and interesting.

This year, some giants like Xiaomi, Huawei, and Tencent are looking at the value of quadruped robots and has made some layout in the field. Quadruped robots have both ToB and ToC values and are perhaps likely to become the "dark horse" in the second half of the field.

Quadrupeds are an extremely large group of animals, which means quadruped robots can imitate many animals and have many application scenarios to use, and bionic technology is one of the fastest-growing fields of robotics. Quadruped robots have the advantages of flexible movement, high dynamics, adaptability, stability, and load capacity. Many application scenarios can be done now, such as security patrol, monitoring services, anti-terrorism, and emergency response, inspection and collection, data survey, short-distance delivery, education and training, home companionship, bionic and military procurement, etc.

The technology and cost of quadruped robots in these potential areas have not yet broken through to the state of the popular application, nor has there been a scene that has been proven efficient enough. But the current quadruped technology has been enough, especially when the mechanical related technology is relatively stable, and later can be upgraded by software to continuously improve the expansion capacity of the time.

And more critically, who can take the lead in promoting scale, who will have the opportunity to reduce costs through scale, and when costs break through a certain baseline, technology leadership will continue to "positive cycle" as the market leads.

Of course, this may just be a special stage of the quadruped robot to accelerate into society.


The power of a few can influence the future of many

Wang Xingxing, the founder of Unitree Robotics, has always believed that technology has the power to change the world. This power is that it can change the future of many people by the efforts of a few.

In his opinion, in the future, on a universal quadruped robot platform, Unitree Robotics can do many valuable things, just like many different quadrupeds that can run, jump, climb, and so on. A universal quadruped robotics platform will also give rise to a variety of different uses.

Many technology products, such as our commonly used computers and smartphones, have gone through a process from "high-tech toys for the few" to "tools that most people can't live without." This story is likely to repeat itself in the quadruped robotics industry. More and more people and companies are already focusing on quadruped robots, including some of the best-known giant companies at home and abroad. And we will hear more about different applications of quadruped robots in the future.

He already foresees a future where such devices will become as common as smartphones. "I think that it will take about two years to see the robots roaming the streets of China," he said.