The humanoid robot is a metal and plastic replica of the human body which is the most advanced system known to date. We could say that humanoid robots have great potential of becoming the supreme machine, with growing intelligence expected to surpass human intelligence by 2030, and with already augmented motor capabilities in terms of speed, power and precision. Initially used in research with the purpose of understanding the human body in detail and eventually sourcing motion and control solutions already engineered by nature, humanoid robots are becoming increasingly present in our lives. Their operating environments are no longer limited to controlled environments found in laboratories, humanoid robots are now able – to different degrees of course – to tackle a variety of challenges present in the real world. They are already employed for entertainment purposes, assisting the elderly or performing surveillance on small kids. In this article we take a look at humanoid robots for sale on today’s market. Generally the prices are not accessible to everyone, as they start from within the five-figure range.
Why would I buy an advanced humanoid robot?
Tasks and interactions with people that can be accomplished by such machines have difficulty ratings between medium and low, the human body is subject of study for researchers and engineers that develop technologies in the robotics field. An advanced humanoid robot has human-like behavior – it can talk, run, jump or climb stairs in a very similar way a human does. It can also recognize objects, people, can talk and can maintain a conversation. In general, an advanced humanoid robot can perform various activities that are mere reflexes for humans and do not require high intellectual effort.
1. DARwIn-OP (ROBOTIS OP)
DARwIn-OP is a humanoid robot created at Virginia Tech’s Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa) in collaboration with Purdue University, University of Pennsylvania and Korean manufacturer ROBOTIS. The robot can be used at home, but the main goal is to be used in education and research thanks to the fact that it is a powerful and open platform and its creators encourage developers to build and add features to it.
DARwIn-OP or ROBOTIS OP first gen is 45cm tall (almost 18 inch) and has no less than 20 DOF, each joint being actuated by Dynamixel MX-28 servos. Its brain is represented by a PC sporting an Intel Atom Z530 CPU with 1GB of DDR2 RAM and 4GB of SSD storage as well as lots of standard I/Os, communication and peripherals. Hardware level management is accomplished by means of a CM-730 controller module which also integrates an inertial measurement unit (IMU), a 3Mbps servo bus as well as other interfaces and hardware.
ROBOTIS OP 2nd gen is a revision of the original platform, sporting more powerful hardware under the hood, several improvements and features, and a smaller price tag, but almost no differences in exterior design apart from color of course.
The updated CPU is a dual core 1.6GHz Intel Atom N2600 with 4GB DDR3 RAM and 32GB SSD storage, both of which can be upgraded by the user, and Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11n WiFi connectivity. Thanks to improved hardware the robot can now run not only Linux but also any 32-bit Windows version. There is also a revised slightly smaller CM-740 hardware controller.
ROBOTIS OP 2 can be bought at around US $9600, about 20 percent cheaper than the first generation.
2. DARwIn Mini (ROBOTIS Mini)
The ROBOTIS Mini or DARwIn Mini is a lightweight and of course much smaller humanoid robot kit aimed at makers and hobbyists. The 27cm (10.6 inch) tall robot is completely open source and its parts are 3D printable, making it an ideal and cost-effective development platform.
Its brain is represented by an OpenCM9.04 embedded controller board which is also compatible with Arduino IDE. There are also interesting software options available, the R+ mobile app lets you program the robot from an iOS or Android device, while R+ Task and R+ Motion let you program motions or more advanced tasks into it. DARwIn Mini has a very affordable US $499 price tag.
3. NAO Evolution
NAO Evolution is the fifth iteration of the platform developed by French company Aldebaran Robotics and released in 2014. This 58cm tall robot has 25 DOF and is packed with a wide range of sensors such as sonar, tactile and pressure sensors, not to mention cameras and other standard equipment, being able to perform highly complex motions and tasks.
NAO is also an open platform for all those who want to make improvements or to learn how an advanced robot works in technological terms. It can also be used in education and research as study material or platform for developing new generation of humanoid robots.
The robot comes with a powerful brain, the main CPU is an Intel Atom with 1.6GHz running the NAOqi OS and the associated programming framework. There is also a second controller which handles hardware level functions The robot can recognize shapes, people or voices. Captured images have the best resolution thanks to the two HD-resolution cameras, which yield good performance even in low light conditions. To understand what the user is trying to transmit through words, Aldebaran has created a technology called Nuance that translates sounds into robot commands.
NAO Evolution is available for around US $7500, a price tag almost half of the previous generation initial release price.
Pepper is a cute faced humanoid robot designed by Aldebaran in collaboration with Japanese communications giant SoftBank. The robot is geared toward high level human interaction, therefore featuring some advanced capabilities. The robot is equipped with a highly complex cloud-backed voice recognition engine capable of identifying not only speech but also inflections, tonality and subtle variations in the human voice. It also has the ability to learn from its interactions, while its 25 sensors and cameras provide detailed information about the environment and humans interacting with it. Pepper is not only a master of speech, it can use body language as well, relying on 20 actuators to perform very fluid and lifelike movements.
The robot is available for sale since June 2015 – only in Japan for now – at the price of US $1,600 or 198000 Yen, in concordance with the price stated last year. It is worth noting that the price tag does not cover production costs entirely, however hopes are that the difference will be covered from cloud subscriptions and maintenance fees totaling about US $200 per month.
Romeo is a cute-faced character from plastic and metal with a height of 143 cm. This robot is under continuous development with new features being added as we speak. Romeo is built to order and customized according to requirements. The idea of developing a robot to help people with disabilities or health problems is not new, but Romeo is one of the best robots built for these tasks. Besides the care shown to people, it can be a real family member. It can have a discussion, can work in the kitchen, or empty the garbage. Interaction between people and Romeo is done in a natural way using words or gestures. Even if has four fingers on one hand, the robot can grasp objects, manipulate and feel objects of whatever form. Its degrees of freedom add to a total number of 37.
6. HUBO 2 Plus
The HUBO 2 Plus robot comes from Korea it has a height of 130 cm, weighs 43 kg and a staggering 40 DOF with 10 of them just for the fingers. It senses the environment through a video camera while an array of inertial and force-torque sensors is used for accurately determining its position. and has a price of approximately US$ 400,000. The new plus version introduced in 2011, comes with low power consumption, greater flexibility, a lightweight body, and high intelligence. The total number of degrees of freedom is 40 and allows a high flexibility of the head, arms and legs. It can dance, walk and grab objects as well as a human. It can walk at a speed of 1.5 km/h and run with 3.6 km/h.
A modified variant called DRC-HUBO has won the DARPA Robotics Challenge in June 2015, completing successfully all of the tasks in the competition. DRC-HUBO features modifications such as wheels added to it’s knees and feet for increased stability, more powerful motors, longer arms with more DOF and a 180 degree rotating torso. Complicated sensing mechanisms and F-T sensors were dropped in favor of a single camera and a Lidar operated only when required. Find out more about the robot here.
7. HOVIS Series Robots
HOVIS Eco Plus is a 20 DOF, 41cm tall robot developed by Korean company Dongbu Robot. Attractively packaged and packed with sensors and lights this can be employed either as a ready to run robot or development platform. It is based on an ATMega128 controller chip and motion simulation, visual programming and task programming software comes bundled with it, however it can also be programmed with other IDEs such as Visual Studio or AVR Studio. Pricing is around US $1000-1200, depending on opting whether you want it assembled or not.
Another variant, the HOVIS Eco Lite is a more basic kit with only 16 DOF and without the plastic body casings of the Eco Plus, with inertial sensors and Zigbee being optional extras, otherwise being fully compatible with each other. This version is available at prices around US $700 unassembled or about US $1100 in ready to run form.
HOVIS Genie is a robot designed as a personal robot and can help its users with daily tasks. It has the ability to perform voice recognition, play music, patrol its environment, and household tasks. It is just as customizable as the Eco Plus and Lite. A myriad of sensors is packed into this robot and it can automatically roll into its charging station. It can move efficiently thanks to its rolling base equipped with omnidirectional wheels. The Eco Genie is priced at around US $2000 and is available at major retailers.
RoboThespian comes from the United Kingdom and is in continuous development since 2005. The current iteration – RT 3 – is available since 2011 and can be bought at prices starting with approximately US $78,000 or rented for various events. The robot is designed to be used in museums to guide visitors, education, or research. It is a good public speaker, and impresses by gesturing and emotions displayed on its face. Also it has the ability to dance, sing, or recite text. The two eyes are made up of LCD screens and change their colors in relation to the robot’s movements. Some of the moves made are created in the 3D animation program Blender.
The robot can be controlled remotely from a browser while the user can see what the robot sees at all times. The browser interface also allows for customizing high level functions via Python scripts running on a proprietary software architecture, while processing is ensured by Intel NUC units.
The robot’s body is made of aluminum while components are covered with the very common PET plastic material. Instead of electric motors, RoboThespian uses muscles driven by air pressure created by well-known German company Festo, these actuators allow for delicate and precise hand movement.
Now at version 2.5 iCub is actually a spoiled baby, that’s how advanced this robot is. With a price of US $270,000 (250.000 EUR) without tax this is an extremely advanced social robot, the good part is that it is also modular so parts can be bought separately. It has a height of 100cm, weighs 23kg, it has ‘human features’ such as skin, sensors in fingertips and palms, complex tendon articulations, elastic actuators and is able to recognize and manipulate objects.
Each hand has 9 DOF and can feel objects in the same way a human does. The head is an essential component for moving, recognition and commands. It has 6 DOF and has integrated two cameras, two microphones, gyroscopes and accelerometers. Its brain is controlled by PC-104 controller board powered by an Intel CPU.
10. PR2 Robot System
PR2 is impressive in every way, from its dimensions and hardware to the impressive open source community and the amount of development around it.
The robot has a variable height, thanks to its telescopic body, between 1.3 and 1.64 meters (4.36 and 5.4 feet), 7 DOF arms that extend to almost 1 meter, omnidirectional mobile base and 2 DOF neck joint. Lots of sensors are employed, such as Hokuyo Laser scanners, a Kinect sensor, multiple stereoscopic and regular cameras, pressure sensors, to mention just a few of them.
Two quad-core Intel i7 Xeon CPUs with 24GB of RAM lie at the core of its control electronics and several communication interfaces, such as Gigabit Ethernet, dual-band WiFi and Bluetooth, ensure connectivity, while a 1.3kWh battery pack provides power for the whole system.
A complete setup with 2 arms and grippers including charging station, controller and other accessories costs US $280.000 without tax and includes a 30 percent discount if important contributions to the open source community are demonstrated.
HRP-4 is one of the most advanced humanoid robots with 34 DOF and a price of US$ 300,000 (approximately 222.000 EUR). Developed by Kawada Industries of Japan together with Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) it is used for research and development of advanced software for humanoid robots motion. HRP-4C nicknamed Miim is a more human looking evolution based on this platform, that not only looks creepily human, it can also dance and sing.
HRP-4 has a height of 1.51 meters and weighs 39kg. Each robot arm has 7 degrees of freedom and can lift a maximum weight of 0.5kg. The intelligence level is pretty high, the robot can talk, understand, recognize or manipulate various objects. Thanks to the wide range of integrated sensors, HRP-4 can detect the direction of the sound so it can turn towards the speaker. The brain is an Intel Pentium M processor with a working frequency of 1.6GHz.
Kuratas is a very interesting robot, it offers lots of features, it is rideable and can also be controlled from a smartphone app. Its operating system V-Sido offers pretty advanced control and motion, and it can be ordered straight from Amazon. In Japan.
The price? Oh the price is about 1.3 million US Dollars, not a typo, but as seen in the demonstration above it may be worth it. The 3.8 meter (about 12 feet) tall 5-ton robot is also equipped with ‘weapons’ such as a water powered LOHAS launcher or a smile powered gatling gun, should you encounter any enemies in that lazy Sunday afternoon when you’re driving it around the block.
ASIMO is the most advanced humanoid robot which can be bought but also the most expensive, it costs no less than US $2,500,000. The latest version appeared in 2011 and brings significant improvements in autonomy, new balancing capability, new recognition system and other technological improvements.
ASIMO can move in crowded places such as shopping malls, station or museums. It has the ability to adapt to the environment, can walk on any terrain, can climb or descend stairs almost as good as a human. It has a height of 130 cm and weighs 48 Kg. The 57 DOF enable the machinery to perform amazing maneuvers and it can also run with a speed up to 9 km/h.
Robots are no longer used just in industrial environments, factories, warehouses and laboratories. They become part of the society we live in, part of our lives. The passage of time will bring lower costs and new technologies which will narrow the intelligence gap between robots and humans and will enable their widespread purchase. For the moment, advanced humanoid robots are found in limited numbers on the market due to low demand and high prices, however we expect to see many changes on this market in the near future, especially in Japan where demand is very high. Would you acquire a humanoid robot today?