Things You Didn’t Know About Tesla’s Humanoid Robots

Things You Didn’t Know About Tesla’s Humanoid Robots

Elon Musk’s Tesla is famous for its electric cars, but the company is also a world leader in robotics. Musk considers Tesla’s AI to be severely underrated—a claim that’s not entirely baseless. While Tesla attracts world-class talent to build robots and artificial intelligence, these areas are much less talked about because they’re not the central focus of the company.

However, Tesla builds incredible robotics and AI systems. Its main vehicle for showcasing them is Optimus, Tesla’s humanoid robot. Let’s dive into some of the most exciting, interesting, and relatively unknown parts of Tesla’s robotics division.

Optimus can prepare your breakfast eggs


Optimus – Gen 2

Meet Optimus – Gen 2—Tesla’s latest and greatest humanoid robot. Optimus – Gen 2’s hand movements are so gentle and precise that it handles the preparation of eggs. In a demo video, Tesla showed how Optimus’ hand could pick up an egg using its tactile finger sensors. Then, Optimus transferred the egg from one hand to the other, before placing it in an egg boiler.

Optimus is an achingly slow walker


Tesla Bot Update

Optimus – Gen 1, shown here, walks on two legs, with human-shaped feet and articulated toe sections. Last week, Tesla posted a video of Optimus walking 1.3 miles per hour, highlighting the robot’s current pace capabilities in contrast to typical walking speeds. Optimus’ walk is impressive and improving every few months, but it’s still super slow.

A combination of pistons, force plates, and levers enables the robot to walk at a measured, deliberate pace, achieving a realistic simulation of cautious movement. Optimus – Gen 2 stands upright and has functioning limbs, hands, and a neck that turns. It can also perform squats and do some basic yoga poses, exhibiting terrific balance that’s been a challenge for humanoid robots in the past.

Tesla’s robots come with a brain

Photo: Iv-olga (Shutterstock)

Each Optimus robot is equipped with a fully trained neural network. The humanoid robots have artificial intelligence that allows them to interact with the world around them, completely autonomously. In one example, Optimus sorts blocks by color, gently picking each one up and placing them in a corresponding bin, even pausing to fix one that tipped over.

Optimus can learn, then remembers new environments

Screenshot: Tesla

Optimus is outfitted with an artificial intelligence system that is similar to the one used in Tesla vehicles. So when Optimus encounters a new landscape, it immediately uses tracking technology to understand the new space. Then it remembers it, building a map the robot can use for the next time it encounters that space.

Optimus may be the key to human-level artificial intelligence


Andrej Karpathy: Tesla AI, Self-Driving, Optimus, Aliens, and AGI | Lex Fridman Podcast #333

Optimus could be a major key in developing human-level AI over something like ChatGPT because it interacts with the real world, like a human. That’s according to Andrej Karpathy, a founding member of OpenAI who briefly served as Tesla’s Director of AI. Because Optimus moves around in the real world and has access to the internet, it has a leg up on a software program like ChatGPT that purely exists within a computer.

Tesla’s humanoid robots are meant for mass production

Photo: Costfoto/NurPhoto (Getty Images)

Tesla is not just building one or two of these robots to prove the concept. They’re designing Optimus to be a fleet of mass-produced robots, much like Tesla’s mass-produced cars. What exactly are people going to do with all of these Optimus robots? The answer isn’t immediately obvious.

Elon Musk has no idea what the end goal is for Optimus


Tesla AI Day 2022

“I’m not sure where it ends up,” said Elon Musk in response to a user who asked about Optimus’ end goal at Tesla AI Day 2022. “Some place interesting for sure.” Tesla is sinking millions of dollars in the development of robots, yet the reality is that the company is uncertain about the eventual outcome. Tesla is essentially placing a bet that humanoid robots will be useful, but it’s unclear what use they will really have. At Tesla’s 2022 AI Day, Musk said Optimus would cost less than $US20,000.

Tesla’s robots could replace factory workers

Photo: Around the World Photos (Shutterstock)

While Optimus has no stated use cases yet, one idea many have floated is that they’d make good factory workers. Tesla has already automated much of its car-making process, using enormous robot arms to move heavy car panels. However, Optimus could be a useful robot to do more delicate tasks.

Optimus is a general robot shaped like a human, and it can learn tasks that humans can already do. It’s made to fit into our human world and could even be trained to use other machines, sit at a desk, or more. This is different from past robots which are built and designed to do one task only.

Optimus could be useful to Amazon’s shipping services, textile production, microchip production, and other industries where humans currently work. The humanoid robots have greater intelligence and precision than most robots, making them ideal candidates for a number of jobs.

It’ll take longer to develop than expected

Photo: VCG/VCG (Getty Images)

So, this is all undeniably impressive, but when can we expect Tesla’s bots to be ready? Elon Musk says Optimus could start shipping by 2025, but it’s important to note that he tends to be overly optimistic about such timelines.

Indeed, Musk is infamous for terrible ETAs. Tesla’s Cybertruck was supposed to be ready by 2022, but it didn’t release until the end of 2023. Even then, the entry-level Cybertruck model won’t ship out until 2025. Similarly, Tesla has promised autonomous driving technology for years but just issued a recall to warn users they still need to focus when driving.

Optimus could present even more of a challenge. New technologies need abundant beta testing to prove functionality, efficacy, and longevity. Not to mention the obvious safety issues that come with artificially intelligent humanoid robots. Given these factors, it could be many years until Tesla is ready to ship you an Optimus robot.

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