new York It’s still quite shaky: the machine with uncovered mechanical joints and cables takes a few steps on the stage and waves to the audience. Then she quickly disappears again. Elon Musk is nevertheless enthusiastic.
“This is actually the first time that it’s running freely,” says the head of the electric car manufacturer Tesla presenting his new humanoid robot. “Our goal is to build a useful humanoid robot as quickly as possible.”
Musk has two prototypes called “Optimus” on Friday evening (local time) presented in the US: a cautiously running example that reflects the stage of development in February and a disguised example that had to be pushed onto the stage by technicians, but Musk says is closer to the final look of the “Optimus”.
The robot was presented as part of the Tesla-“AI Day.” At this conference, Tesla annually showcases advances in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). For Musk, the day is a marketing tool: At the last “AI Day” a year ago, he announced the development of the robot, surprising observers and competitors alike.
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The difference of the robot to better known competitors from Boston Dynamics, Honda and others on the one hand lies in the computing power, Musk now explained: By using the development services of Tesla in the autopilot area, the robot is more intelligent. Secondly, it is cheaper.
“Optimus is a very versatile robot that will be produced in large quantities.” Millions of robots could soon be produced. And the price should be well below that of a Tesla car: possibly “at $20,000,” Musk promised. At this point, applause erupted in the handpicked audience.
Tesla boss Musk: Robot project more important in the long term than car production
Musk has high hopes for the new robot. “He will help millions of people,” he announced. “Optimus” can perform some tasks twice as fast as a human. “We don’t even know exactly where the limit is.”
With the coming future in which humanoid robots play a big role, “we have to be careful that they benefit humanity,” Musk said. At Tesla, he strives to do the right thing. Robots could ensure “a future with plenty, a future without poverty”.
In the past, the billionaire had predicted that the robot project could become more significant than Tesla’s car production over time. At the “Optimus” announcement a year ago, Tesla put a human in a robot costume, which caused some ridicule at the time.
Tesla presented the first technical specifications on Friday evening. Accordingly, the robot is planned with a weight of 73 kilograms. The energy consumption is 100 watts when sitting and 500 watts when running. The technical “brain” should not be in the head, but in the upper body. And when it comes to supplying the necessary parts, Tesla’s supply chain expertise helps, said a developer.
Experts’ views of the performance were mixed. One of the big questions surrounding the Tesla humanoid robot is its ultimate purpose, Chris Atkeson, a professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, told the Wall Street Journal.
If Tesla’s main goal is to improve production, a four-legged robot would probably be easier to build than a humanoid robot, Atkeson said. Additional legs simply made it easier to keep your balance.
On the Internet, some observers criticized the awkward movements of the Optimus. The better-known humanoid robots from Boston Dynamics can already run, dance and jump. However, they lack a meaningful field of application. The company was meanwhile a part of Google and now belongs to the South Korean Hyundai-Group.
Crucial autopilot technique
Tesla showed in recorded videos how the “Optimus” carries a box, waters flowers with a watering can and moves a metal component in Tesla’s car factory. One looks at “modest beginnings”, according to one developer.
Musk emphasized the advantage that the robot can use technology from Tesla’s driver assistance system called Autopilot to recognize its surroundings. The CEO also used the event to explain the technology behind the autopilot and his own approaches to machine learning – and to attract well-trained new employees.
>> Read here: How ready will the Tesla Bot be today?
A special focus of the presentation was on how well the Tesla cars could recognize and understand their surroundings with the help of their eight cameras. Musk expressed his belief that Tesla can handle autonomous driving with cameras alone, without the more expensive laser sensors, which practically all other developers of self-driving cars rely on.
160,000 Tesla customers are currently driving into the United States with a test version of the assistance software that is supposed to control the cars autonomously instead of just keeping them in lane and at a distance. According to US regulators, Tesla Autopilot is a Level 2 system in which the driver remains in charge of the vehicle at all times.
Mercedes Benz has already developed a level 3 system in which the liability risk is transferred to the manufacturer. Of the US Highway Traffic Inspectorate NHTSA is Tesla’s overoptimistic marketing of the system been a thorn in my side for some time, in particular in view of an accumulation of associated accidents, some with fatal consequences.
Musk said Tesla should be ready, at least technically, to launch Autopilot software in other countries by the end of the year. However, local regulatory requirements could delay launches outside of the US.
The billionaire is known for making bold announcements and timelines that reality doesn’t keep up with. Compared to other automakers with significantly higher annual production, Tesla is extremely highly valued with a market capitalization of around $830 billion.
Analysts say that new visions are all the more important to inspire stock market imagination. Musk did not name a start date for the sale of the “Optimus” robot on Friday evening.