NASA has teamed up with Apptronik to accelerate the commercialization of the Apollo humanoid robot system. The company founded in 2016 has created several robotics platforms that include exoskeletons to humanoids and aims to create general-purpose robots able to endure multiple environments.
Apptronik has a specific focus on human-centered design, so its robotic systems are user-friendly and the robots are able to work alongside humans. These humanoids will be able to operate in dangerous or unhabitable environments while still able to use tools that actual astronauts can.
NASA and Apptronik worked together starting in 2013 as part of a DARPA Robotics Challenge. In this most recent venture, Apptronik has the chance for its robots to work on Earth and one day in space. As noted by Jeff Cardenas, CEO and co-founder of Apptronik, in a press statement:
"Continued investment from NASA validates the work we are doing at Apptronik and the inflection point we have reached in robotics. The robots we've all dreamed about are now here and ready to get out into the world. These robots will first become tools for us here on Earth, and will ultimately help us move beyond and explore the stars."
Apptronik will unveil the Apollo humanoid at South by Southwest in March 2023.
To support its efforts to commercialize, Apptronik received almost $15 million in seed funding earlier this year. Looking ahead, Apptronik wants to have one million robots sold and delivered by the end of the decade. Until then, Apollo hopefully will be one of the first commercialized humanoids available.
Although many robots are sent to work in factories and laboratories, most of these products are special purpose models with very specific skillsets and abilities. That's also why Apptronik isn't just working with NASA, but is fostering relationships with automotive OEMs, logistical companies, and other government agencies.