On Aug. 17, Elon Musk’s tech company Tesla revealed more about its upcoming humanoid artificial intelligence (AI) robot — the Tesla Bot. Tesla’s new robotic project aims to assist humanity in their daily chores, and, according to Musk, will be released by the end of the year. However, Musk is known for exaggerating release dates, and the eerie image of robotic assistants have prompted skepticism by some.
The Tesla Bot is intended to assist humans in their everyday chores, where “boring” responsibilities can be rid of as these automotive helpers are expected to chip in. Musk hopes that his robots will be able to perform tasks such as cooking, cleaning, caring for the elderly and general maintenance around the home.
“Tesla Bots are initially positioned to replace people in repetitive, boring, and dangerous tasks. But the vision is for them to serve millions of households, such as cooking, mowing lawns, and caring for the elderly,” Musk wrote in an article published in China Cyberspace magazine.
Musk views the Tesla Bot as the next step in mankind’s integration with AI, after famously stating about the technology, “If you can’t beat it, join it.”
According to Musk, the Tesla Bot — codenamed “Optimus” — stands at about five feet and eight inches tall, and will be capable of carrying loads of up to 45 pounds (20.4kg) and be able to lift up to 150 pounds (68kg). He also added that the robot can run up to five miles (8km) per hour, making it slow enough for humans to outrun.
A key feature of his AI driven Tesla Bot is its ability to “learn” and rapidly adapt to its environment. He previously drew a parallel of the upcoming power of AI as something similar to a “god.”
It is said that the Tesla Bot will utilize the same chips and sensors used by Tesla’s Autopilot software, which has been mired in controversy and scrutiny from politicians and federal regulators.
Regardless, Musk is adamant that his new robot will evolve and be mass produced to help humans in their lives, just as his electric vehicles are said to have done.
“Achieving this goal requires that robots evolve to be smart enough and for us to have the ability to mass produce robots,” Musk said.
“Our ‘four-wheeled robots’ — cars — have changed the way people travel and even live. One day when we solve the problem of self-driving cars (i.e., real-world artificial intelligence), we will be able to extend artificial intelligence technology to humanoid robots, which will have a much broader application than cars.”
According to Tesla, the first prototype of the Tesla Bot should be ready by the end of the year, assuming his company can facilitate mass-scale production. He also shared that his Tesla Bot may even be more important than his own electric cars.
“We plan to launch the first prototype of a humanoid robot this year and focus on improving the intelligence of that robot and solving the problem of large-scale production,” he said.
Musk has not revealed the price of the robot to be offered to customers and organizations, but has faith that it will bring a “profound” impact on the economy by lowering labor costs.
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The Tesla Bot is but the latest of Musk’s grand technological ambitions, however, some have called out Tesla’s CEO in the past for his tendency to set skyscraping goals.
For example, Musk announced that Tesla would release one million autonomous “robotaxis” by 2020. Yet, to this day, the cars have barely started development.
Dan Ives, managing director at Wedbush Securities, believes that the Tesla Bot is a “head-scratcher” that may aggravate investors in the midst of growing EV competition and safety concerns.
“Unfortunately, as we have seen with robotaxis and other future sci-fi projects for Musk we view this Tesla Bot as an absolute head-scratcher that will further agitate investors at a time [Wall Street] is showing growing concern around rising EV competition and safety issues for Tesla,” Ives said.
Ives also expressed the importance of Tesla focusing on certain issues, like the disruption of the supply of microchips — which has struck global production of new cars and delayed Tesla deliveries for months.
He also said that Tesla needs to deal with the legal issues surrounding the Autopilot software, and its expansion in China’s EV market.
Meanwhile, China’s Xiaomi has unveiled its own robot counterpart — the CyberOne robot — presenting some competition for the Tesla Bot.