Dear Commons Community,
Elon Musk introduced Tesla’s new robot, Optimus, yesterday atTesla AI Day.
As seen in the video below, Optimus walked onto a stage, turned, and waved to a cheering crowd at the company’s artificial intelligence event.
But the basic tasks by the robot with exposed wires and electronics — as well as a later, next generation version that had to be carried onstage by three men — was a long way from CEO Elon Musk’s vision of a human-like robot that can change the world.
Musk told the crowd, many of whom might be hired by Tesla, that the robot can do much more than the audience saw Friday. He said it is also delicate and “we just didn’t want it to fall on its face.”
Musk suggested that the problem with flashy robot demonstrations is that the robots are “missing a brain” and don’t have the intelligence to navigate themselves, but he gave little evidence Friday that Optimus was any more intelligent than robots developed by other companies and researchers.
The demo didn’t impress AI researcher Filip Piekniewski, who tweeted it was “next level cringeworthy” and a “complete and utter scam.” He said it would be “good to test falling, as this thing will be falling a lot.”
“None of this is cutting edge,” tweeted robotics expert Cynthia Yeung. “Hire some PhDs and go to some robotics conferences @Tesla.”
Yeung also questioned why Tesla opted for its robot to have a human-like hand with five fingers, noting “there’s a reason why” warehouse robots developed by startup firms use pinchers with two or three fingers.
Musk said that Friday night was the first time the early robot walked onstage without a tether. Tesla’s goal, he said, is to make an “extremely capable” robot in high volumes — possibly millions of them — at a cost that could be less than a car, that he guessed would be less than $20,000.
Tesla showed a video of the robot, which uses artificial intelligence that Tesla is testing in its “Full Self-Driving” vehicles, carrying boxes and placing a metal bar into what appeared to be a factory machine. But there was no live demonstration of the robot completing the tasks.
Employees told the crowd in Palo Alto, California, as well as those watching via livestream, that they have been working on Optimus for six to eight months. People can probably buy an Optimus “within three to five years,” Musk said.
Employees said Optimus robots would have four fingers and a thumb with a tendon-like system so they could have the dexterity of humans.
Experts in the robotics field were skeptical that Tesla is anywhere near close to rolling out legions of human-like home robots that can do the “useful things” Musk wants them to do – say, make dinner, mow the lawn, keep watch on an aging grandmother.
“When you’re trying to develop a robot that is both affordable and useful, a humanoid kind of shape and size is not necessarily the best way,” said Tom Ryden, executive director of the nonprofit startup incubator Mass Robotics.
The future of robotics is secure but there is a way to go yet!