Elon Musk has a track record of making bold claims. He announced that he’s actually going to make a humanoid robot, called Tesla Bot, and it will be able to grab your groceries for you and perform other menial tasks, and no that’s not a joke. According to Elon Musk, the company’s newest employee is merely normal size, standing approximately 5-foot-8 and weighing 125 pounds. It’s part of the company’s wider automation aspirations, which include developing its computer processor, codenamed the D1, to power the networks for self-driving vehicles.
At its “AI Day” last week on 19th August, Tesla released many details about its progress to develop AI technology to power its self-driving system. But as was expected, there was a “one more thing” moment, and it was robots.
CEO Elon Musk announced that Tesla plans to build a humanoid robot called Tesla Bot. Musk described Tesla as already being the biggest robotic company in the world, considering the capabilities of its vehicles to see and understand the world around them and act on that information. At a presentation at its Fremont, Calif, plant on Thursday, Tesla teased the robot concept, dubbing it the “Tesla Bot” and “Optimus,” and promising to reveal a prototype next year. A human disguised as the machine performed robotics movements and then danced onstage as part of the demonstration, possibly displaying the range of mobility that Tesla believes the bot will attain. The dancer, Musk quickly clarified, was not a genuine robot.
The CEO believes that it makes sense for Tesla to use their significant advancements in computer vision, but instead of deploying in a robot on four wheels, the company will do it in a humanoid robot. Musk said that Tesla Bot will be geared toward doing “repetitive and boring tasks.” Musk claimed the robot will have its personality, even though the project was still in its early phases. He responded, “It’s intended to be friendly, of course” and it traveled around a world designed for people, avoiding risky, repetitive, and uninteresting activities. He also stated that people must be ready for robots to undertake menial chores and, eventually, work alongside them, if not completely replace them in the workplace.
Here are the basic specs for the robot as described by Tesla during the presentation:
It’s going to share a lot of the technology found in Tesla vehicles today, including the FSD computer that will receive data from a very similar suite of sensors.
Tesla released this slide regarding the AI hardware in the Tesla Bot:
Using a similar suite of AI hardware will enable Tesla to leverage the development that it is already doing in the process of delivering a full self-driving car. The main new sector of technology for Tesla is going to be the humanoid format, which Tesla released only a few details about:
While Musk didn’t go into many details about the overall capabilities of the Tesla Bot and exactly what tasks it will be able to do, he hinted that the ultimate goal is for the robot to eventually be able to replace most “dangerous, repetitive, and boring tasks.” He specifically referenced sending the Tesla Bot out to go get your groceries at the store as an example.
But the CEO said that they are making the robot because they already making almost all of the technology to create it, and if “Tesla doesn’t do it, someone else will,” and they want to do it safely.
A white-clad humanoid robot with sensors was depicted in Tesla’s robot mock-up. According to the presentation, it would be “built by humans, for humans.” The robot could deadlift up to 150 pounds and travel at a speed of five miles per hour. Musk has expressed concern about artificial intelligence’s ability to outwit humans, even describing it as the greatest threat to humanity. Tesla, according to Musk, has opted to invest in what it believes will be an emerging sector of technology.
The long-term vision is to replace most labor, and Musk reiterated his support for universal income, which would be required if the Tesla Bot has the impact that Musk is expecting.
The CEO says that the company plans to have a prototype ready for “sometime next year.”
At product unveilings and investor presentations, Tesla has a history of inflating timeframes and overpromising. The Cybertruck electric pickup was introduced in November 2019, however, the firm recently admitted that it will not be delivered until 2022 at the earliest. Last year, the firm organized a “Battery Day” event to show off its next-generation battery cell, which would be featured in the Model S Plaid-Plus version.
Tesla now hiring roboticists for developing the Tesla Bot
Musk described Tesla AI Day as a recruiting event to go get some of that talent.
While the focus was on AI, Tesla is also looking for roboticists now that Tesla Bot is in the cards.
So the automaker started listing some roboticist job postings related to Tesla Bot:
- Mechanical Engineer-Actuator Integration (Humanoid Robot)
- Mechanical Engineer-Actuator Gear Design (Humanoid Robot)
- Senior Humanoid Mechatronic Robotics Architect
- Senior Humanoid Modeling Robotics Architect
Tesla wrote in one of the job descriptions:
“The Tesla humanoid robotics modeling team is looking for a highly skilled and motivated colleague that would like to help building the next generation biped robot. You will be working closely with a multi-disciplinary team with the goal to build a humanoid robot that can support manufacturing operators in tedious and exhaustive tasks.”
Interestingly, Tesla specifically references “a humanoid robot that can support manufacturing operators” – something that the CEO didn’t emphasize during the presentation.
As for the job postings related to actuators, the automaker describes the new level of expertise that it is looking to develop in order to build Tesla Bot:
“Tesla’s actuator team designs and builds actuators for humanoid bi-pedal robots (Tesla Bot). The team joins mechanical, electrical, and electromagnetic engineering disciplines in a highly collaborative environment.
This position is critical to the development of the high-performance electromechanical rotary and linear actuator systems for humanoid bi-pedal robots (Tesla Bot). Tesla actuators need to deliver high performance, efficiency, and torque (force) density. You will join the team of electromagnetic motor design engineers to develop the most torque and force dense rotary and linear actuator systems in the world.”
The people hired for those positions are going to develop a working prototype of Tesla Bot, which doesn’t exist yet.
Musk said that Tesla aims to unveil a prototype next year.