Elon Musk is doing it again, this time around with a humanoid robot, called Optimus. Last week, Elon Musk showcased what could be considered the first attempt at making robots mainstream. Tesla started by unveiling Bumble C, which is the first version of the bot and it was developed with “semi off-the-shelves” actuators. It served as a testing bed for Tesla’s first robot developed with in-house parts. After Bumble C, Tesla brought on stage the first generation Optimus robot. The robot shares some AI software and sensors with Tesla cars’ Autopilot driver assistance features. It contains a 2.3kWh battery pack, runs on a Tesla SoC, and has Wi-Fi and LTE connectivity.
Optimus appeared on stage at a Silicon Valley event, Tesla AI Day, where it waved to the audience and raised its knees. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that the new robot should be able to walk within the next few weeks, but he wanted to show it to the public since it looks more like the version of the robot that is going to go into production. The CEO said the robot was work-in-progress but could be on sale to the public in a few years’ time. Although the robot is still in its pilot stage, what Tesla achieved within a six months period indicates that there’s a huge potential for this form of machine. Tesla is not the first company to launch a robot however its approach is what makes this robot development unique.
Recently, the Chinese tech company unveiled its first look at CyberOne during a live event in Beijing. The humanoid bot was able to walk across the stage and appeared to communicate with Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun. Musk is not developing a robot for a few individuals. He claimed that the difference between Tesla’s design and other “very impressive humanoid robot demonstrations” is that Tesla’s Optimus is made for mass production in the “millions” of units and to be very capable. Musk said that Tesla’s advantage is that its bot is going to be powered by its AI, which has been primarily developed for self-driving technology. He believes Tesla is going to be able to leverage this work to enable the robot to navigate the real-world and perform useful tasks. Some in the robotics field have indicated that there’s very little to suggest that the Tesla robot disrupts robotics the way that SpaceX did for rockets or Tesla did for electric cars. Whatever the limitations of the current version of the humanoid robot, this is a huge moment for robotics.
Musk has moved robots behind the scenes into the front row for consumers to see and view them as the next thing in tech. Musk spoke about robots and their economic impact. If Musk succeeds, this moment signals a future where robots will form part of our lives. Future applications could include cooking, gardening and some factory work. In the same way the washing machine changed the world in terms of saving time for more productive work, robots will transform how we work. Some will take away unnecessary work and some may be a cause for pain in terms of employment. Musk has said that production could start as soon as next year. According to him the robots will be available at a cost lower than $20,000 , and be available in three to five years.