Tesla Robots and Their Surprising Capabilities
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, began Tesla AI Day 2022 with a short-level set of expectations — “we’ve gone a long way” — and then stood aside to let the first iteration of its robot stroll out onto the stage.
Unlike the previous year, the robot was not a person clothed in a robot suit. Instead, during its second annual event, Tesla unveiled a working robot, although one with exposed connections and a bit unsteady. It was the first time it has worked without “any support, cranes, mechanical systems, or wires,” according to Musk.
The robot exited the stage after a brief turnaround the stage, before the rest of the presentation began, which included presentations from more than a dozen members of the company’s AI and hardware teams, as well as several short videos of the robot (now tethered for stability) carrying a box in an office, watering a plant, and lifting a small piece of metal in the Tesla factory in Fremont, California.
The goal of the demo and subsequent bot presentation, in which a number of Tesla personnel conducted a bipedal robotics 101 course, was to demonstrate additional progress. (After all, anything other than a human dressed in a costume may be deemed progress.) Instead, the event attempted to foreshadow Tesla’s future direction.
Best Uses Of Tesla Robots
Musk stated that the first-generation prototype, dubbed Bumble C, will eventually develop into Optimus. This robot will eventually be able to walk effectively and balance, carry a 20-pound backpack, handle tools, and have a precise grasp for little robots. The Bumble C prototype has a 2.3-kilowatt-hour battery pack, which one Tesla employee described as “ideal for approximately a full day’s worth of work.”
Tesla did demonstrate a second bot, which did not have the same capability as the Bumble C but had a more streamlined design. Staff carried this bot, which couldn’t walk, onto the stage.
Some of the robot’s specifications have been altered since last year. For example, the bot’s weight has increased from 125 pounds to 160 pounds.
The continuous allusion and crossover with Tesla automobiles — particularly its Autopilot approach — was perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the Tesla bot roadshow.
Tesla Bot Components
According to the company, it is leveraging its energy products and incorporating those components into the bot, including battery management. The Tesla bot contains the same supercomputer that is used in Tesla automobiles. Tesla is also using the hardware and software from its sophisticated driving assistance system Autopilot for the bot. The Tesla bot also has wireless connectivity, audio support, and hardware-level security measures, which the firm claims are “essential to secure both the robot and the humans surrounding the robot.”
The major issue is whether combining all of these economies in the bot would result in a scaled robot that works. Of course, Musk believes it is achievable, even going so far as to predict that the Optimus will cost under $20,000.
Musk said the Tesla bot will start tiny at the conclusion of the almost three-hour session, which also included talks on the company’s FSD software and Dojo supercomputer development.
“We’re going to start Optimist with very modest production testing,” Musk stated. “You know, like maybe simply loading a section from the video.”
He subsequently said, “Right now, we just want to make basic humanoid operate properly, and our objective is to get to a viable humanoid robot as quickly as possible.”
Everything We Know So Far About Tesla Robot Optimus
So far, here’s what we know about Optimus, the Tesla bot:
- Tesla’s AI chip is the brain.
- 11 degrees of freedom in the hands
- Muscles include 28 structural actuators.
- Joints: modeled after biological human joints
- Cameras are the eyes.
- Microphone for the ears
- Speaker’s voice
- Battery: 52V 2.3kWh battery pack
- Power consumption: 100 watts when seated, 500 watts when walking Speed: 5 mph (8 km/h)
- WiFi and LTE connectivity
- 161-pound weight (73 kilograms)
- Carrying capacity: 20 pounds (9 kilos) each hand, maybe more in other combinations.
- Metal if required, but as much plastic as feasible for weight savings
Tesla Robot Intelligence And Ability
The Tesla robots team is aiming exceedingly high in terms of movement capacity, with no less than 18 sometimes-complex moves. Please keep in mind that these are Tesla-reported capabilities, and the robot very definitely does not yet perform all of them.
- Walking forward
- Squatting and walking squats
- Taking a detour
- Walking while turning
- Squeezing or grasping an item and raising it from the ground up to eye level
- Stair climbing
- Squatting and grabbing an item
- Slope or hill walking
- Objects that slide
- Making use of a drill
- Objects being pushed and pulled
- Using a screwdriver to turn an item
The timeline, like all Elon Musk timetables, is quite ambitious. Tesla anticipates starting sales within three years, and most likely within five years. Given the task’s intricacy, this is difficult.
The Future of Tesla Robots
“Our objective is to build a viable humanoid robot as soon as feasible,” Musk explained.
He was unafraid to foresee the repercussions of fully functional robotic employees and helpers, claiming that they will lead to a “future of abundance, a future without poverty, a future where you can have everything you want in terms of products and services.” Musk admitted that there are robots out today that look to be more capable — maybe from firms like Boston Dynamics — but stated that Optimus, unlike them, is meant for mass production: millions of units.
Achieving that would result in a profound shift of civilization as we know it, according to Musk.
He is not mistaken: if Tesla or any other business can build workable, functional, and useful robots that are widely available at a reasonable cost, it will revolutionize nearly impossibly large areas of current economies and society. High-level humaniform robots might do tasks such as warehouse employees, fast food workers, janitors, manufacturing workers, construction workers, cleaners, gardening workers, shipping and receiving staff, and stocking clerks.
However, roboticists are doubtful about our ability — and Tesla’s capabilities — to provide them anytime soon.
Diana Rus, an MIT professor and head of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, recently told me that “the more you generalize, the less you optimize,” which is why so many robots today do not adopt human form.
Reconfigurable robots are one solution to this problem.
“There’s a trade-off between how competent the robot is at performing a set of jobs and how many things the robot can perform,” Rus explained. “My idea was to create universal robot cells that could be combined to form different types of machines… so the shape and function of the machine would be specialized, but because each machine will be built out of the same building blocks, we could have a kind of generality in how we think about robots.”
This is known as modular self-reconfiguring robot systems.
Time will tell if those types of robots, or specific-purpose robots, or Elon Musk’s general-purpose humanoid robots, will triumph.