Kepler Technology (开普勒探索机器人), a Shanghai-based general-purpose robot startup, launched its first-ever humanoid model on November 17, marking the firm’s entry into a hotly contested segment the world over.
Kepler, which was founded only in August this year, is headed by Yang Hua, founder and CEO of a smart home appliance maker Chunmi Technology, a Xiaomi ecosystem company.
Yang holds a controlling 85% stake in the new venture. In January this year, Chunmi had dropped hints it would branch out into humanoid robotics, publishing a video about what it said is a “full-sized bionic humanoid robot.”
Named after the German astronomer Johannes Kepler, the startup specializes in the design and production of humanoid robots as well as construction of an application ecosystem surrounding them.
A heated race is on in China to produce humanoid robots, with more than a dozen companies and research institutes working on their answers to Tesla Bot or Atlas from Boston Dynamics.
The latest model from Kepler is available in three versions, namely, K1, S1 and D1.
These variants, which embody the firm’s goal to churn out robots that come close to humankind, reportedly possess highly bionic human-like structure and motion control attributes.
On the very day of introducing this innovation, Kepler also revealed a plan to mass produce and commercialize the technologies.
The firm even has put a price tag on the end-product, with each unit selling for between US$20,000 and US$30,000.
Notably, this price range somewhat overlaps with the sticker price envisaged by Tesla CEO Elon Musk for its biped Optimus.
The new contraption from Kepler stands 178cm tall and weighs in at 85kg. It has 40 degrees of freedom across the body, with 12 on the hands.
Kepler said the robot can traverse complex terrains, autonomously avoid obstacles, move its hands with agility, carry heavy objects, and achieve hand-eye coordination.
Besides, most important, it is capable of communicating with the user, although the company did not say how or whether it relies on ChatGPT-like generative AI tools to do that.
To enable the robot to move with dexterity and sufficient power, Kepler’s engineers equipped it with self-developed planetary roller screw and rotary actuators.
In terms of application, the three editions are meant for different scenarios. K1, for one, is a standard, entry-level model catering to education, research and automated production lines.
Meanwhile, S1 will focus on outdoor inspection, meaning that it is tailored to use cases such as environmental inspection, emergency rescue and outdoor safety operation.
D1, for its part, will primarily be deployed to perform tasks in a dangerous environment, such as when exposed to radiation and high temperature.
Kepler said the robots’ main role is to replace human workers in certain dreary and risky jobs.
In addition to the hardware, Kepler also rolled out its proprietary, open-source Kepler OS for developers. Featuring a modular design, developers can build on the platform to customize modules as they see fit.
Besides, they also can establish workflows and scenarios rapidly through visual programming tool kits, essential to robotic functions like motion execution, visual identification and voice interaction.
Kepler said it will make the platform open to over-the-air updates going forward.