However, it’s not the first time anyone has tried to stimulate humans in the form of robots. The story goes long back to ancient history where it’s believed that Hephaestus, the Greek god of blacksmiths created several different humanoids. So let us dig deeper into the topic to understand actually what are humanoids.

A History of Humanoids

The history of humanoids has a dozen of stories to offer but it all begins when Hephaestus, the Greek god of metalworks used a ton of copper sculpture, which could move from place to place on golden wheels as if they were automated machines. He used them for offering services to gods who visited him. Hephaestus also lacked internal strength that’s why he forged two maids that were made up of gold. The maids were strong, able to express their thought and behave sensibly in various situations. They were the helping hands of Hephaestus. They helped him in his outings, waited for him, sang, and danced for him to amuse him. They had “everything taught by immortal gods”, according to Homer’s Iliad. Another story is the story of Talos, a bronze giant created by Hephaestus to protect the island of Crete. It was gifted to Minos, the king of Crete. Talos had a metal body with a horned head. There was a single artery running from the top to the toe of his body which was connected to a copper nail. The bronze man threw rocks on enemy ships and red flames whenever there was an enemy invasion. However, he was outsmarted by sorceress Medea, who exploited its “false vision” and took the plug out of the artery in the ankle that contained all the life fluid and drained the “black oily blood” out of its body killing Talos. In technical terms, the “black oily blood” symbolizes the fuel in a humanoid and the false vision might be the guided radar jamming. The horns might be any form of antenna for the radar system. Many other such stories of humanoid presence are mentioned in ancient history, may it be the Karakuri puppets of Japan or humanoids developed by Ismail al-Jazari, may it be the complex robots conceptualized by Leonardo Da Vinci or the ones mentioned in the Chinese philosophical text Liezi. Coming back to modern history, the first ever instance of human interaction with a humanoid was observed when a guy named Roy Wensley invented Herbert Televox in 1927.

Early Evolution of Robotics

In its initial stages, it was just a structure full of switches and wires, which wasn’t interesting enough for the people. To overcome the issue and attract people Roy added a human-like body to the structure and even added lights to its eyes and made his left hand movable. The robot was not able to move around and interact with people which has been the major reason for questioning if it was a humanoid or not. But having made such progress, almost 100 years back was itself a revolutionary step in the development of the topic. After Roy’s invention in 1927, came Eric 1928, a British robot built by First World War veteran Captain William Richards, and aircraft engineer Allan Reffell. He was constructed to open the Exhibition of the Society of Model Engineers at London’s Royal Horticultural Hall in 1928 after George VI (then the Duke of York) canceled and an exasperated Richards, the exhibition’s secretary, offered to “make a man of tin” to take the Duke’s place. Eric was controlled by two people and Eric’s voice was received by a live radio signal. Later a better version of Eric, named George was built in the 1930s with a cost of £2000 as compared to that of eric £140. George could deliver speeches in German, English, Hindustani, etc. After Eric came Elektro the Moto Man, built by engineer Joseph Barnett, who worked at the Westinghouse Electric Corporation. The 7 feet tall, 120.2 kg humanoid was able to walk with the help of voice commands, speak 700 words per minute, smoke cigarettes, blow up balloons, move his head and hands and play 26 different tricks. Elektro’s body consisted of a steel gear, cam, and motor skeleton covered by an aluminum skin. His photoelectric “eyes” could distinguish red and green light. One of Elektro’s pet lines was, “My brain is bigger than yours.” At 25 kg, it certainly was. He even appeared in a movie, The Middleton Family at the New York World’s Fair with his companion Sparko, the robot dog. Elektro found a home in Mansfield Memorial Museum, in Ohio, where it is the current property of the museum and is now on a permanent display.

The Age of AI

In the early 2000s also there has been significant development in the field of fostering human behavior into robots. Sophia is a special humanoid robot, a delicate-looking woman with doe-brown eyes and long fluttery eyelashes developed by Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics. As a unique combination of science, engineering, and artistry, Sophia is simultaneously a human-crafted science fiction character depicting the future of AI and robotics, and a platform for advanced robotics and AI research. Sophia was modeled after the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti. Sophia used a computer-vision algorithm to observe the surrounding environment and a decision tree to generate dialogs. Around 2018, fully functional legs were also added to her. Sophia attained citizenship in Saudi Arabia in 2017 making her the first humanoid to attain natural citizenship of any country. Sophia is described to be the best fit for use in the healthcare, customer service, education, etc sectors. Other than this another major development is Robot Shalu developed by an Indian middle school teacher, Dinesh Kunwar Patel. The special thing about this humanoid is that its outer structure is made up of waste materials and uses basic python libraries like Tensorflow and NLTK for its functioning. Adding up to the list is the latest invention Optimus, the Tesla bot which was released on Tesla AI Day. The bot is a fully functioning humanoid which the company aims to be made available to the public by 2023 under a budget of $20,000. Many other humanoid examples are Robonaut 2, OceanOne, etc.

How Does a Humanoid Work?

Any humanoid is made up of three parts: Sensors (for input), CPU (processor), and Mechanical Actions (for output).

Sensory Inputs

The sensory inputs can take anything from smell to visual inputs. Proprioceptive sensors in a humanoid allow it to perceive the orientation, position, and speed in its joints and body using accelerometers, tilt sensors, force sensors, speed sensors, and position sensors. Exteroceptive sensors like an array of tactels and special haptic sensors are used to sense any form of physical interaction of the humanoid that can start further processes. The sensors also relay information about the torque and force between the humanoid robot and the objects with which it interacts. Other different types of sensors are pressure sensors, piezoelectric sensors, light sensitive sensors, etc. All these sensors are chosen based on the type of work for which the humanoid is being used and the level of similarity with humans expected from it. Nowadays computer vision techniques are also being used for the humanoid to scan the surroundings and give necessary input to the system.


Another important part of a humanoid structure is the processing unit, or CPU. The processing unit is the place where all the information that came as input is processed and sent back to various parts of the bot to generate the output. As far as the processing unit is concerned, a microcontroller or microprocessor can be used. This choice will depend on the driving load. A microcontroller is cheap and is easy to program than a microprocessor. However, a microcontroller has very low output power, and so cannot drive large loads. On the other hand, its PC counterpart, the microprocessor can drive large loads at its output. Microprocessors can also drive multiple loads simultaneously but are quite expensive to use. The complexity of the operations being performed by the robot will depend on its processing unit.


The final and most important part of a humanoid body is the output system. The output system consists of actuators, LED screens, speakers, etc. Actuators make humanoid robots move. They act like joints and muscles to mimic human movements. Actuators can be of three types electric (An electric actuator is a device that can create a movement of a load, or an action requiring a force such as clamping or using an electric motor to create the necessary force), hydraulic (hydraulic Actuator is the type of actuator that utilizes the hydraulic pressure as input to provide excitation to the control system), and pneumatic (an actuator that use instrument air pressure to apply force on the diaphragm to move the valve actuator and then to position valve stem) can be used based on the requirement. Speakers and LED screens are used to convey the output to the outer world. Let us take an example of an RF-controlled humanoid. The wireless robots will have an input module that will provide an output signal based on the instruction demanded by the user. This parallel output is converted into serial form by an encoder circuit and the data is fed to an RF transmitter which performs modulation on the amplitude of the input wave. The RF transmitter sends this ASK (Amplitude Shift Keying) signal through its antenna. This data is generally sent on 433 MHz at a rate of 1 to 10 Kbps. This data is received by the receiver antenna and sent to the RF receiver circuit. This data is converted into serial output by the receiver and fed to the CPU unit. The CPU unit is either a microprocessor or a microcontroller. The decoding of the serial input is done by the processing unit and it sends the data to the relevant pins, which will, in turn, send the parallel output signal to the motor circuit which moves the humanoid in the desired direction. RF is the most preferred wireless medium because it can travel long distances, and is not line-of-sight technology.

Optimus, the Tesla Bot

On August 19, 2021, Elon Musk the CEO of Tesla, announced the idea of a general-purpose conceptual humanoid that is under development at Tesla, Inc. At the same event, Mr. Musk also presented what was assumed by most of the people present over there as the prototype of the bot, an actor dressed in the costume of a humanoid. He showcased the act just to emphasize the idea and to make sure that no one present there is skeptical about the company’s ultra-ambitious plans. The prototype OPTIMUS, also known as the Tesla bot, was first presented to the world on September 30, 2022, on Tesla AI Day. This time the actual robot walked on stage by itself, unconnected to any power source or stabilizer, literally this was the first time the Tesla bot has done so. The major purpose of this bot according to Mr. Musk and Tesla is to do repetitive, boring, or dangerous tasks for humans, to do jobs that people wouldn’t voluntarily want to do. The robot shows how far the research on artificial intelligence has come along. The fact that we are finally going to witness the use of humanoid robots in the real world soon is truly fascinating.

The Structure of Optimus

Coming onto the technical specifications of the bot, the structure is planned to measure 5 ft 8 inches tall and weigh 57 kg. The structure of the bot is mostly made up of plastic for weight saving but it also uses metal where necessary. The processing unit or the brain will be powered by the Tesla AI chip and the Dojo system; Tesla’s new supercomputer project, which is said to be the most advanced supercomputer. It would be capable of processing at a speed 4 times the present systems, which is at one quintillion floating-point operations per second. The bot would have 40 electromechanical actuators; 28 in the Muscular region (2 in the neck, 2 in the torso, and 12 in the arms, hands, and legs). For the eyes of the bot, the Tesla bot will make use of multi-cam neural networks (8 cameras). The neural networks take in raw images from surroundings through different cameras and angles and are trained to judge and predict various factors. Tesla aims of using its AI system that is being developed for the advanced driver-assistance system used in its cars" and has a carrying capacity of 45 lb (20 kg). This makes the neural network feature essential for the Tesla bot to navigate around a place, as it is for a self-driving Tesla car. According to the company, “a full build of Autopilot neural networks involves 48 networks that take 70,000 GPU hours to train.” “The joints of the bot will be inspired by the human system and it can notch up to a speed of 8 km/hour with a power consumption of 100 watts” while sitting, and 500 watts while walking. The Tesla bot would also feature auto-labeling, enabling it to mark datasets. Additional features like WIFI/LTE connectivity, speakers, etc are also added. In terms of movement capability, the Tesla robotics team is aiming extremely high, with no fewer than 18 sometimes-complex movements. Some of these movements as expected from the bot are forward walking, squatting and squat walk, lifting objects from the ground to eye level, using a screwdriver, etc. He also discussed the various variant of the bot, one being a Cat woman Variant that will be available in the market. As Mr. Musk stated, the bot’s goal is “a fundamental transformation for civilization as we know it” at a price that Mr. Musk guessed would be a very reasonable cost: under $20,000. Unlike other companies, Tesla aims at widespread production of the OPTIMUS bot: millions of units within 2-3 years, which could lead to the “end of poverty,” according to Mr. Musk, and lead to an economy that becomes “quasi-infinite”.

Applications of Humanoids

Humanoids have always had a huge influence on mankind and their different applications can be seen in our day-to-day life. Humanoids have been assisting humankind in various capacities, widely leveraged in the domain of healthcare, education, and entertainment, among others. Some of the fields where humanoids are being significantly used are mentioned below:


Humanoids are a great resource for the field of medical research where their applications range from the development of orthosis and prosthesis for humans to the domain of medical research. It is being used to develop complex prosthetics for individuals with disabilities and missing limbs. Nowadays it is also being used for testing different medical treatments and as a test subject for various medical procedures. Researchers are also working on developing humanoids that can work as robotic nurses or can provide basic medical treatment to patients in case of minor diseases. Tele-Healthcare has also emerged as one of the major applications of humanoid where it can be controlled by a specialist from distance far away from the place of need. The WABIAN-2 is a medical humanoid robot created to help patients in the rehabilitation of their lower limbs.

Military Services

One of the potential applications of humanoids can be deploying them to war fields. Every year a huge number of lives are lost in wars and military services but using a humanoid can be the ultimate solution to that. Humanoids can replace humans in war zones where they can be more efficient compared to humans and save a lot of lives. Although governments are still skeptical about this idea because humanoids might not provide the same level of precision as compared to humans and they might lack emotional intelligence reducing them to just a weapon for mass killing. Still, it can be used in minor military services like guarding the borderlines, keeping an eye on the enemy and passing back the information to the camp, and various other security purposes.

Scientific Research and Space Development

Humanoids can be used for scientific research where they can be subject to various practical tests for which human assistance was needed before. They can replicate human behaviour based on the requirements of the test performed. But the drawback with this is that a humanoid can help to perform tests that require only the behavioural aspects of humans and not the physical ones. Humanoids, especially those with artificial intelligence algorithms, could be useful for future dangerous distant space exploration missions, without needing to turn back around again and return to Earth once the mission is completed. They can also be used in assisting astronauts on a space mission or commanding them from Earth. Recently the five collaborative space agencies of the international space station are also planning to deploy humanoids on the ISS to reduce the number of humans working on it.

Manufacturing, Mining, and Maintenance

Humanoids can be deployed to deep mining sites where it is dangerous for humans to go. Mostly it is seen that dynamites and TNT are used in mining sites to create a deep cavity inside the ground which makes the ground under the cavity unstable making it dangerous for humans to work there. Humanoids can be used in these places where they can take place of humans in such situations and can be helpful. These robots can be widely used because industries carry heavy loads and do much of the technical and calculative work to reduce the error percentage that persists while working with humans.


Other than these humanoids can be used in the field of entertainment where they can be the physical build of modern animatronics used for theme parks, as stunt doubles, and are designed to simulate life-like, untethered, dynamic movement. Engineered Arts, founded in 2004 by director Will Jackson, is a UK-based firm that creates various entertainment humanoids via a partnership between artists, mechanical and computer engineers, and animators. The well-known “RoboThespian”, their first humanoid, is a robotic performer with a collection of impressions, welcomes, songs, and gestures. These types of robots are used in educational institutions for educational purposes. They can be used to take small sessions on various topics or their working can be demonstrated to children for educational purposes. Some robots can aid heavily in security administrations like traffic controls, police administrations, etc. Humanoids can also help conduct time-sensitive search and rescue operations and curb menaces like child trafficking, etc., with high efficiency.

Near-Future Applications

Coming to future applications Ford became the first client to put Agility Robotics’ Digit into a production environment in January. The headless humanoid has quick limbs and a slew of sensors. It is capable of navigating stairs, numerous obstacles, and diverse terrains. It can walk erect on one foot and is powerful enough to pick up and stack boxes weighing up to 40 pounds. It may also fold up for easy storage. Artificial intelligence for anticipating and detecting crime may appear far-fetched, yet it is entirely feasible shortly. Drone footage, for example, will make this possible shortly. Furthermore, with camera-based security systems, automated detection of suspicious activity is now a reality.

The Future of Robots

Summarizing the topic, the concept of a fully functioning robotic human might sound a little bit unreal or vague but it is a serious possibility that we might see a huge revolution in the future where humanoids would be replacing humans in most of their tasks. The future of humanoids is dependent on us: either we use it for the good of mankind or the bad of it. On the beneficial side, it has a huge potential in the field of healthcare, education, etc but on the harmful side, there are high chances that these humanoids might be the subject of black marketing to terrorists where it will merely be reduced to a destructive weapon used for mass killings. With big organizations like Tesla putting their best foot forward, we are not far away from a present of human-controlled automation to a future of automated humans. Thank You. This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters. © 2022 Shantanu Singh Verma

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