(Mashable) Elon Musk unveiled prototype versions of Tesla’s Optimus robot at Tesla’s AI Day 2022 event on Friday. They were, well, definitely robots.
At the top of his speech, he offered this disclaimer: “I do want to set some expectations with respect to our Optimus robot. As you know, last year it was just a person in a robot suit. But, we’ve come a long way, and it’s…compared to that, it’s going to be very impressive.”
And were the things the sixth most valuable company in the world revealed impressive compared to a person in a robot suit? You be the judge!
Elon just unveiled the Teslabot and it’s LOOKING AMAZING. Welcome to the future! pic.twitter.com/xgfeOy3yVj
— Brianna Wu (@BriannaWu) October 1, 2022
Over the course of a three-hour event held on a Friday afternoon, Musk and some of his Tesla employees updated the public not just on the robots themselves, but on Tesla’s entire robot operation, and its AI development process. As he showed off his stiff, stumbling robots Musk was in a sort of self-deprecating goofball mode, rather than in full blustery visionary mode, offering constant appeals for the audience’s good faith and reasonable expectations.
After all, Musk explained, “We just didn’t want it to fall on its face.”
The live demonstration featured a wire-laden skeletal Optimus robot that can walk on its own, along with a much less agile, but somewhat less off-putting Optimus with its wires concealed under a streamlined casing. That more streamlined version, however, requires a whole team of people around it to keep it from toppling over. If the content of a video presentation played on a screen during the live demo is to be believed, the wire-laden version can, if tethered to an apparatus attached to the ceiling, water plants with a big, plastic watering can, and move long, slender metal objects around in any sort of context where someone might need a robot to do that type of thing.
And for a predicted price of “probably less than $20,000,” you too might be able to have this perfectly normal human machine in your house. Maybe. Musk and his companies have a long history of imaginative ideas that still haven’t seen the light of day. Like the robotic snake chargers or Hyperloop, which Musk admitted was a ploy to get California to cancel high-speed rail in the state.
Discussing hurdles to building the robot, the Tesla team revealed that the prototype on stage was developed in the past six months. The hope is to get a working design within the “next few months…or years.” Demonstrations during the preview focused on how data was processed for each segment of the robot’s body: the arms, feet, joints, and even the “Biologically Inspired Design” of its human-like hands.
But Musk said one reason the event was happening in the first place was as a sort of high-budget help wanted ad. He said Tesla wanted to “convince some of the most talented people in the world to come to Tesla and help bring this to fruition.”
The Optimus bot is powered by the same autopilot hardware in Tesla’s cars. The AI was then re-tooled for its new environment, motion capturing real-world tasks like lifting a box. Clearly, Optimus can’t do any of those things reliably, but Musk claimed the Teslabot to be “the most important product development we’re doing this year.”