Tesla has introduced an update to its bots, which is known as Tesla Bot or Optimus. The new images of the prototypes were impressive – making the project look less like a sideshow and more like a real product.
When Elon Musk first announced the Tesla Bot, many derided it as a sideshow or a distraction from Tesla’s most important mission to accelerate the advent of sustainable energy.
The CEO exaggerated it by describing how much value it could create by fixing the labor crunch, but like Tesla’s self-driving efforts, everyone can see the value of humanoid robots — the problem is that people have problems seeing Tesla make it a reality.
It didn’t help that the latest demo at last year’s Tesla AI Day was less than impressive.
At the time, Tesla had a very early prototype that didn’t look like much. He was barely able to walk around and wave at the crowd. That was about it.
The company also had another, more refined prototype, but it wasn’t even able to walk in time for the presentation.
This is what it looked like:
Tesla claimed that it has a great opportunity to develop this robot because it can take advantage of a lot of existing hardware developed for its electric cars and software from its self-driving technology.
But it’s not clear how much effort has been put into the project, although Musk claimed it became a top priority at Tesla early last year.
Now at today’s Tesla 2023 shareholder meeting, Musk gave an update on the Tesla Bot that included plenty of new footage of multiple prototypes:
The footage included 5 Tesla Optimus prototypes, and they were seen performing simple tasks, walking around the office as well as other Tesla facilities where Cybertrucks were located.
The prototypes were getting up slowly, but seemed stable.
While the tasks they were performing weren’t really impressive, Tesla seems to have made a lot of progress in developing the two hands:
Tesla also gave a glimpse into robots that discover and memorize their environment.
Musk again claimed that “the Optimus material is grossly underestimated”. The CEO said that demand could reach 10 to 20 billion units.
He went so far as to “confidently predict” that Optimus will account for “the majority of Tesla’s long-term value”.
I’m still skeptical about this project, but I have to give credit where credit is due. This seems like a huge improvement over the last demo, which was only about 8 months ago.
The hands, arguably the hardest part of a robot, are impressive here.
Now I think we’re still at least about 3 years away from a useful product, but that in and of itself would be amazing.
Keep in mind that this timeline is also when I think Tesla will have a useful self-driving car, which makes sense since Elon said Tesla is taking advantage of developing the self-driving AI for Optimus.
While we can argue about the timeline, I wouldn’t bet on Tesla on this. On the hardware side, they have a huge advantage in making use of their existing electrical appliances.
When you think about it, there is no major engineering problem that needs to be solved in order to create a humanoid robot. It just needs to be efficiently packaged, designed and manufactured so that the robot costs no more than $100,000.
People didn’t think this was possible with electric cars and Tesla did it. I think they can do it for humanoid robots.
The AI aspect is the most difficult challenge. That’s why I’m talking about ~3 years for a useful product. This explains the fact that Tesla has already made a lot of mistakes in developing AI for self-driving. These are mistakes the bot won’t make and at some point, they will run out of mistakes to make.
Also, a useful product does not mean that a robot can replace a large percentage of human labor. This means that he will replace some workers at cost. It will probably be a decade before the capability is extended to a large number of missions, and the cost to buy and run makes it a valuable option for large-scale deployment.
Similar to what Tesla has done with electric cars in terms of schedule.
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