Tesla is expected to reveal a working prototype of its Optimus humanoid robot at this Friday’s AI Day in California.
The tech giant plans to sell its Tesla Bots to companies looking to mechanize what Elon Musk describes as “dangerous, menial or boring” tasks which are currently carried out by humans, and eventually to consumers who need help in their homes, or are simply too lazy to go the fridge and grab a beer. But one of its key customers will be Tesla itself, who wants to set the bots to work in its own plants.
The Tesla bot was announced at last year’s AI event, though only in rendered form with some basic technical specifications accompanied by a human dressed up in a robot suit. But this year we’re hoping to see the first operating prototype of a piece of hardware Musk thinks could be even more important than the firm’s automotive business. Previously-released specs for the robot show it will take a human form, stand 5-ft 8-inches (1.75 m) tall, weigh 125 lbs (57 kg) and be able to carry 45 lbs (20.4 kg) in its hands.
In a recent job listing for programmers on its official website, Tesla wrote that it plans to use “thousands of Humanoid Robots within our factories”:
Tesla is on a path to build humanoid bi-pedal robots at scale to automate repetitive and boring tasks. Core to the Tesla Bot, the motion planning stack presents a unique opportunity to work on state-of-the-art algorithms for motion planning and navigation culminating in their deployment to real world production applications. Our motion planning software engineers develop and own this stack from inception to deployment. Most importantly, you will see your work repeatedly shipped to and utilized by thousands of Humanoid Robots within our factories.
Replacing human employees with robots that don’t need lunch breaks, vacations, monthly paychecks, pension contributions, healthcare packages and never get sick or turn up late will be appealing to plenty of manufacturing businesses, but some tech industry experts have tempered their enthusiasm. They have questioned exactly how effective the robots will be, and cited Musk’s patchy track record for making good on incredible tech promises like the Hyperloop and Cybertruck.
“If [Musk] just gets the robot to walk around… or he gets the robot to dance, that’s already been done. That’s not that impressive,” Nancy Cooke, a professor in human systems engineering at Arizona State University told Reuters.
Tesla is also expected to provide more details about advances in its autonomous vehicle program. More than 150,000 Tesla drivers are currently trialing the company’s full self-driving (FSD) Beta system on their cars in North America, but a senior Tesla engineer has previously said that the finished software would be made available to all Tesla drivers by the end of the 2022.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 7, 2022