Musk vs. Altman: Clash of Titans in the Humanoid Robot Market
The race for supremacy in the humanoid robot market seems set to be a defining trend of the year. This theme gained momentum in 2023, with various players unveiling new models of "human-like" machines.
Among numerous innovative projects, Apptronik, an American company, stands out with its Apollo, a robot designed for warehouse tasks, capable of lifting up to 25 kg. Additionally, Agility Robotics (USA) has caught the public eye with Digit, a bipedal robot that Amazon has been testing since the fall of 2023.
In this industry race, giants from related fields are also stepping up. Elon Musk's Tesla is notable for developing a versatile humanoid robot, known as Tesla Bot or Optimus. This robot is expected to have a 20 kg payload capacity. Musk aims to delegate repetitive or hazardous tasks to Optimus. It functions using advanced AI, neural networks, and the advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) found in Tesla cars.
I think Optimus is going to be incredible in five or 10 years, like mind-blowing,Elon Musk predicts.
Tesla periodically reveals the progress of Optimus. In early 2023, a video was released where two humanoid robots are shown assembling a third. By spring, the company demonstrated a group of robots navigating through manufacturing sites and streets, recognizing people, objects, and their surroundings. In December, Musk unveiled a second-generation prototype of Optimus, featuring a new design, a one-third faster walking speed, and a 10 kg weight reduction. The robot was also upgraded with enhanced, more dexterous "human-like" hands.
OpenAI, a leader in the AI market, has made a strategic investment in 1X Technologies, a robotics start-up based in Oslo, Norway. Sam Altman's interest in 1X Technologies is not singular; other notable investors include South Korean tech giant Samsung and several major venture capital firms. During two funding rounds in 2023, 1X Technologies succeeded in raising over $210 million. With this funding, the company is gearing up to expand the mass production of humanoid robots, intended for a wide range of uses from household assistance to industrial applications.
Back in 2018, the company introduced the advanced servo motor Revo1, a type of electric motor that ensures precise control of position, speed, and rotation angle. This innovation has made the movements of 1X Technologies' humanoid robots strikingly human-like. Additionally, through collaboration with OpenAI and its AI systems, the company's robots have been programmed to understand human speech and respond to voice commands.
So far, 1X Technologies has developed two lines of robots. The non-humanoid Eve, a wheeled device used in commercial and production settings, is already in use, with over two hundred units deployed in places like Sunnass Hospital and Everon production facilities. The humanoid model, Neo, functions as an automated home assistant capable of performing tasks such as cleaning and fetching items. In 2024, 1X Technologies plans to enhance the data collection process for Neo's AI training.
The growing interest of AI companies in robotics is justified, as the AI robot market is projected to expand significantly. According to MarketsAndMarkets research, this market could grow fivefold over five years (2021-2026), from $6.9 billion to $35.3 billion.