Tesla has announced the latest in its humanoid robot program known as Tesla Bot or Optimus. The new images of the prototype were so striking that they made the project look more and more like a potentially real product rather than a sideshow.
When Elon Musk first unveiled the Tesla bot, many laughed it off as a sideshow and a distraction from Tesla’s more important mission to accelerate the advent of sustainable energy.
The CEO hyped it up by explaining how much value would be created by solving the labor crisis, but like Tesla’s self-driving efforts, the value of humanoid robots is understandable to everyone. ―The problem is that people have trouble seeing Tesla make it happen.
It didn’t help that the latest demo at last year’s Tesla AI Day wasn’t all that impressive.
At the time, Tesla had a very early prototype, but it didn’t look like much. All I could do was walk around and wave to the crowd. that was it.
The company also had a more polished-looking prototype, but it didn’t make it to the presentation.
Here’s what it looks like:
Tesla argued that it has a great opportunity to develop this humanoid robot because it can leverage much of the existing hardware and software for self-driving technology that has been developed for electric vehicles.
However, it was not clear how much effort was put into the project, despite Musk claiming earlier last year that the project had become Tesla’s top priority.
Well, at Tesla’s 2023 shareholder meeting today, Musk gave an update on the Tesla bot, including lots of new footage of multiple prototypes.
The footage included five Tesla Optimus prototypes that were seen roaming the office and other Tesla facilities with Cybertrucks around them, performing simple tasks.
The prototype was booting slowly, but seemed stable.
The tasks they were performing weren’t all that impressive, but Tesla seems to have made great strides in developing hands.
Tesla also gave a glimpse of how the robot can detect and remember its surroundings.
Mr. Musk again argued that “Optimus’ stuff is hugely underrated.” The CEO said demand could reach 10 billion to 20 billion units.
He “confidently predicted” that Optimus would represent “the bulk of Tesla’s long-term value.”
I’m still skeptical about this project, but I have to give it some credit. This looks like a huge improvement over the last demo which was only about 8 months ago.
Perhaps the most difficult part of a humanoid robot, the hands are really impressive here.
I think it will still be at least three years before we have a working product, but that in itself is great.
Mind you, that timeline is also when I think Tesla will develop a useful self-driving car. This makes sense since Elon says Tesla is leveraging his AI development in-house for Optimus self-driving cars.
We can argue about the schedule, but I’m not against Tesla on this point. On the hardware side, there are significant benefits to leveraging current EV hardware.
Come to think of it, there are no major engineering problems that need to be solved to create a humanoid robot. All that is required is that the robot not only be designed and manufactured to cost no more than his $100,000, but be efficiently packaged.
People didn’t think it was possible with an electric car, but Tesla has done it. I think you can do it with a humanoid robot.
The AI side is a more difficult task. That’s why I say useful products have a useful life of about three years. This explains the fact that Tesla has already made many mistakes in developing AI for self-driving cars. These are the mistakes that robots don’t make, and at some point they won’t.
And useful products do not mean robots that can largely replace human workers. In other words, it will replace some workers at a price. Considering the cost of acquisition and operation, it could be a decade before this capacity scales to a large number of tasks and becomes a worthy choice for large-scale deployments.
Time-wise, it’s similar to what Tesla did with its electric car.
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