This Robot Learns How to Fight and Play Piano Just By Watching

Robot see, robot do.

HumanPlus playing the piano thanks to a remote control human operator.
Zipeng Fu / X

Instead of designing a humanoid robot with AI reasoning and neural networks, you can just teach it yourself.

Researchers at Stanford University developed a robot that can imitate what you’re doing in real-time thanks to a simple webcam setup. Called HumanPlus, the team’s robot can learn how to box, play piano, return a ping pong ball, and type, all by shadowing what a human does.

This method of educating a robot is much simpler than what we’ve seen with more popular models, like Figure 01 or 1X’s Eve robot which both run off natural language understanding. However, once you teach the HumanPlus enough movements, it develops a deep knowledge base that lets it eventually handle tasks autonomously. The level of HumanPlus’s autonomy seems rather simple, like folding clothes or picking things off a shelf, so we don’t expect to see the HumanPlus on a factory floor anytime soon.

Robots Made Easier

Unlike other options we’ve seen, like the Boston Dynamics’ Atlas or Tesla’s Optimus bot, the HumanPlus represents more of a DIY way of getting an autonomous robot in your home. Looking at the bill of materials, the HumanPlus isn’t cheap either, with a total price tag of more than $100,000 if you’re following the exact specs from the researchers. The robot was built using Unitree’s H1 robot as a base, adding on hands from Inspire-Robots and wrists from Robotis, and a Razer webcam for seeing. That means the HumanPlus stands five feet nine inches tall and has 33 degrees of freedom.

The HumanPlus’ design is open source, so nothing is stopping you from adjusting the it as you see fit, so long as you have the technical know-how to do so. One of the researchers, Zipeng Fu, noted that the hardware required to remote control the HumanPlus only costs $50, which is much cheaper compared to the more popular option of using a Meta Quest headset.

Build It Yourself

Since the HumanPlus was the result of a research paper, don’t expect it to be commercially available anytime soon. Instead, you can build your own version using this GitHub repository that’s available to anyone.

If you want to replicate exactly what the Stanford University researchers made, you’ll have to shell out at least $90,000 for Unitree’s H1 robot to serve as the hardware platform. However, the robotics company also recently released a much more affordable version called the G1 that starts at $16,000. Instead of dropping upwards of $25,000 for Tesla’s upcoming Optimus bot, designing your own HumanPlus seems like the cheaper way to get your own autonomous robot at home.

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