Tesla CEO Elon Musk plans to reveal his new Tesla Bot during Tesla’s “AI Day” on Friday, Sept. 30, more than a year since first announcing it. However, the idea of a humanoid robot is prompting concern from experts and skeptics, with many also questioning Musk’s stated release date.
More than meets the eye?
The Tesla Bot has also been given the name Optimus, derived from the name of a character from the Transformers franchise.
The robot stands at about five feet, eight inches tall and will be able to lift loads of up to 150 pounds (68kg). Musk also said the robot can run up to five miles (8km) per hour, slow enough for humans to outrun.
In a TED Talk, Musk said that the robots would be used to perform mundane tasks like household chores and caring for the elderly, adding that they could also prove to be companions to humans. The robot is also intended to perform more dangerous tasks such as movement of parts around factories.
The Tesla robot was first announced on Tesla’s first AI Day in August 2021, with a rather peculiar display of a human wearing an outfit dancing on stage.
According to Musk, while the robot has not been given the intelligence to fully function independently in the human world, he said that Tesla can learn more about AI and other essential robotic components to create “smart, less costly, humanoid robots,” VOA News reported.
Musk also went on to boast that Tesla’s robot business could overshadow its car business, with Tesla planning to be more than just a company for cars controlled by artificial intelligence.
The Texas-based company has opened up job listings in preparation for the mass release of Tesla’s new Tesla Bot. It seeks engineers who can not only produce the robots, but also wheeled models to be used in its factories, Reuters reported.
It was reported that Musk postponed the second AI Day in 2022 to Sept. 30 so that Tesla could prepare a working Tesla Bot prototype.
“Tesla AI Day pushed to Sept. 30, as we may have an Optimus prototype working by then,” Musk posted on Twitter.
Musk expressed his hopes that the robot would be released in the millions.
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Concerns about the robot
With AI Day approaching, Tesla and its robot have faced several issues leading up to the reveal date.
A problem faced by humanoid robots is their inability to respond to “unpredictable situations.”
Shaun Azimi, lead of NASA’s Dexterous Robotics Team, explained to Reuters,
“Self-driving cars weren’t really proved to be as easy as anyone thought. And it’s the same way with humanoid robots to some extent.
“If something unexpected happens, being flexible and robust to those kinds of changes is very difficult,” he added.
Experts also believe that Musk’s robots may succeed in showing its basic functions during AI Day, but they are unlikely to fully excite the public in terms of their capabilities compared to humans.
In addition to technical concerns, Musk is known to have set lofty, unattainable goals in the past. In 2019, he vowed to release one million robotaxis by 2020. To this day, Tesla has not delivered a single unit.
Dan Ives, managing director at Wedbush Securities, said the Tesla Bot is a “head scratcher”, as it may drive away investors as the competition for EV production intensifies.
Ives also stressed the importance of Tesla solving certain issues, including the disruption of the supply of microchips, and the company’s legal issues surrounding its Autopilot software.