Tesla’s robot is a real robot now, not just a guy in a suit • TechCrunch
Tesla CEO Elon Musk kicked off his Tesla AI Day 2022 with a fast level set on expectations – “we’ve come a long way” – then stepped back to allow the first iteration of his robot to ride on stage.
The robot was not a human in a robot costume like last year. Instead, Tesla showed off a working robot, albeit with exposed cables and a little wonky, at its second annual event. According to Musk, it was the first time it had worked without “any support, crane, mechanical mechanism or cable”.
After a brief tour of the stage, the robot left the stage before the rest of the presentation continued, which included several short videos of the robot (now strapped down for stability) carrying a box into an office, watering a plant, and lifting a small piece of metal in the Tesla factory in Fremont, California.
The purpose of the demonstration and subsequent presentation, in which a number of Tesla employees gave what can only be described as a bipedal robotics 101 course, was to show more progress. (After all, anything beyond a human in a suit could be considered progress). Instead, the event aimed to telegraph where Tesla is heading, build confidence in its trajectory, and (hopefully) recruit the talent it needs to drive the agenda forward.
Eventually, Musk said the first-generation prototype, which he called Bumble C, will evolve into Optimus. This eventual robot will be able to walk efficiently and maintain balance, carry a 20-pound bag, use tools, and have a precision grip for small robots. The Bumble C prototype features a 2.3 kilowatt-hour battery, which a Tesla employee said was “perfect for about a full day’s work.”
Tesla showed off a second bot, which didn’t have the same functionality as the Bumble C, but had a sleeker exterior appearance. This bot, which couldn’t walk, was brought to the stage by staff.
Some of the robot’s specs have changed since last year. For example, the weight of the bot has increased from 125 pounds to 160 pounds.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the Tesla robot roadshow was the repeated reference and crossover with Tesla vehicles – and notably its Autopilot strategy.
The company said it leverages its energy products and uses those components for the bot, including battery management. The supercomputer used in Tesla vehicles is also found in the Tesla bot. And Tesla is also leveraging the hardware and software used in its advanced Autopilot driver assistance system for the bot. The Tesla bot is also equipped with wireless connectivity as well as audio support and hardware-level security features, which the company says are “important to protect both the robot and the people around it.”
The big question is whether all of these efficiencies, when combined in the bot, will result in a scalable robot that works. Of course, Musk thinks it’s possible, going so far as to say he envisions the Optimus to cost just $20,000.
Near the end of the nearly three-hour program, Musk said the Tesla bot would start small.
“We’re going to start Optimist with very simple factory testing,” Musk said. “You know, like maybe just load a game like you saw on the video.”
He later added, “For now, we just want the basic humanoid to work well, and our goal is the quickest path to a useful humanoid robot.”