Apollo’s Odyssey: How we injected humanity into a humanoid robot

argo’s design balances complexity and approachability for a distinct, recognizable form. 

For decades, science fiction and Hollywood have solidified our perception of how robots should look and behave. So when it came time to design Apptronik’s general-purpose robot, argodesign had an opportunity to leverage this deep history and overcome the tropes to create something approachable, intelligent, and real. 

As its strategic design partner, argo worked closely with Apptronik to create the final form of the Apollo robot along with the system of software applications used to manage and control it for a holistically-designed solution.

Humanoid, not human

As help for humans, general-purpose, humanoid robots are meant to mimic the human form to work alongside people in a similar, multi-functional manner. 

While Apptronik structurally based Apollo’s form on the human anatomy, argo’s industrial design work took special care in finding the right balance between an authentic, human-like functional tool without crossing the uncanny valley. 

The details of the head illustrate this careful balance between human and machine. argo designed the face to be relatable, friendly, and capable while conveying important information like status and feedback. The overall shape and proportions mirror the human head, while the details are designed to disarm any notion that Apollo is anything other than a tool.

A unified collection of systems

Like humans, robots are a dynamic combination of multiple systems that must work together, all of which need to be accounted for in the design.

  • Power - Power controls and auxiliary ports are easily accessible from the back panel. A port is also available for charging or tethering.


  • Battery - Multiple options for battery management enable continued uptime. Operators can easily access swappable battery packs from the rear panel for safe and quick replacement. 


  • Modularity - Apollo can be customized to suit different work environments. It can operate as a mounted, stationary version or fully mobile. 


  • Movement - Designed to mimic an athletic human, the industrial design accommodates a large range of motion in the limbs and functional dexterity in the hands. 

  • Safety - Apollo works seamlessly alongside people and other Apollos. It can redirect its path to avoid collision and completely shuts down whenever an object is near. A large shut-down button is also available from the back as well as via software.

  • Identity - Each Apollo includes an identifying number as well as the ability to assign a digital identity. The digital ID appears on the physical displays and in the software, making it easy to re-assign Apollos to different teams.

Like humans, communication centers on the face

Understanding what Apollo is doing at all times is critical for smooth operation. LEDs in the head, eyes, mouth, and chest display all convey status information.

The eye LEDs and mouth display work together to form both human-based expressions, such as a smile or greeting, as well as technical patterns like charging and error states.

The chest panel is an interactive, touch-enabled display. It communicates more detailed information, such as Apollo’s identity, mode, task status, and battery status. Face expressions and chest displays are designed to work together to avoid redundancy and distraction.

Beyond hardware, envisioning the software control system

argo established a suite of software controls that allow customers a wide range of influence, from manual control of an individual Apollo to programming and training complex tasks for a fleet. argo designed each application to accommodate specific user needs and environmental factors.

Establishing a market position

argo created a set of day-in-the-life vignettes to help envision how this robot will work in common scenarios while addressing questions this new technology will likely engender. These demonstrate the value of general-purpose robots to future customers and investors.

Building a strong brand foundation

Establishing a strong brand foundation was crucial to ensure consistency across the various hardware and software systems that comprise Apollo. Defining brand values, principles, and core attributes for Apptronik’s identity provided a basis for Apollo’s design language while bringing cohesion across its marketing materials and product offerings.

A special thanks to Aaron vom Eigen at Pushstart Creative for his support on this project.

The process of working with argo was a dream come true. argo took our perspectives and research and put it into practice with world-class designers to build a truly capable product. What we’ve done in our work with argo, and where I think we’ve been successful, is creating a new dynamic between man and machine.

Jeff Cardenas

Co-founder, CEO, Apptronik

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