The Unitree G1 Is a Short Humanoid Robot That Costs Just $16,000

Does anyone want to buy a humanoid robot for $16,000? The latest product from Unitree hopes that you will: Meet the Unitree G1, a “Humanoid agent AI avatar,” aka a robot. If you haven’t heard of Unitree, it’s sort of the go-to “budget Chinese option” in the robot space. You’re going to have to deal with company promotional materials that are just barely written in English, but you get some impressive bang-for-your-buck robots. You may have seen the Spot knockoff Unitree Go2, a $1,600 robot dog that various resellers have equipped with a flamethrower or just straight-up military rifles.

Unitree’s promo video shows some impressive capabilities for such a cheap robot. It can stand up on its own from a flat-on-the-floor position. Just like the recent Boston Dynamics Atlas video, the G1 stands up in probably the strangest way possible. While lying face-up on the floor, the G1 brings its knees up, puts its feet flat on the floor, and then pushes up on the feet to form a tripod with the head still on the ground. From there, it uses a limbo-like move to lean its knees forward, bringing up its head and torso with all core strength.

Photograph: Unitree

The G1 is a budget robot, so the walk cycle is kind of primitive. It walks, stands, and “runs” in a permanent half-squat with its legs forward and knees bent all the time. The balance looks great though—at one point a person shows up and roughs up the robot a bit, kicking it in the back and punching it in the chest. In both cases, it absorbs the abuse with just a step back or two and keeps on trucking.

So, is this humanoid robot … useful? Is it a toy? A big limitation in the real world is its height, a diminutive 4’2″ tall, which will make many tasks difficult. If you ask the usual “Can it do the dishes?” question (assuming the water won’t be an issue), you’re going to first have to hope it can reach the bottom of the sink. It’s going to struggle to reach the bottom shelf of a kitchen cabinet. Maybe you can teach it to use a stool. The small size is key to getting the price down, though. Unitree’s other humanoid robot, the H1, is adult-sized, but it’s also $90,000.

As for other specs in the confusing and poorly put-together spec sheet, it has a 9,000-mAh battery that lasts two hours. The weight is listed as both 35 kg and 47 kg depending on where you look, so it’s somewhere in the 77- to 104-pound range. We do get real component model numbers for the vision system: an Intel RealSense D435 depth camera and a Livox-MID360 lidar puck. The lidar puck location is interesting. The face of the robot is clear glass, and the head is hollow aside from a, uh, “brain” part at the top of the head. The lidar puck is mounted to the underside of the brain and peers through the front of the face glass to see forward. Robot design is weird.

The robot can run at 2 meters per second or 4.4 miles per hour. That’s around a slow jog. If “Arm Maximum Load” on the spec sheet is how much it can lift, it can lift 2 kg, or a paltry 4.4 pounds. The joints are all in a 160-  to 310-degree range. You’re going to have to do a lot of programming to make this do anything useful, but Unitree is not very forthcoming about how you’re supposed to do that. Presumably you’ll be using the same Unitree SDK the robot dogs use. You can also poke around the developer documentation for the Unitree H1 to get an idea of what you’ll be in for.

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