Tesla Unveils Its Humanoid Robot Prototype…and Sows Doubts

Tesla Unveils Its Humanoid Robot Prototype…and Sows Doubts

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On September 30, after much hype, the Optimus robot developed by Tesla took the stage at an event organized by the company. If the crowd seemed excited, the robot didn’t really live up to the capabilities that Elon Musk had announced a few months ago… The CEO said it was still capable of much more than what the public could see live.

Optimus, which is based on the AI ​​that Tesla uses in its autonomous vehicles (Full self-driving), entered the stage slowly and rather awkwardly, then waved to the crowd. But that ultimately turned out to be quite a disappointment compared to Elon Musk’s vision of a humanoid robot unveiled last year. The public attending this event dedicated to artificial intelligence also had a glimpse of the next generation of Optimus: a prototype was brought to the stage… carried by three people. Tesla’s CEO explained that his robot was so fragile that he didn’t want to risk it falling.

Demonstration therefore, it did not have the desired effect and disappointed many experts. Philip Piekniewskiartificial intelligence researcher, tweeted that Tesla AI Day is a “complete and utter sham” and added that it would be “nice to drop the test because this thing is going down a lot”. Cynthia Yeung, robotics expertlooks equally disappointed: I dreamed of being in a comedy with Taika Waititi as a product manager working on robots. Then I woke up and remembered that I had been live tweeting Tesla AI Day for 3-4 hours In short, Tesla’s intelligent robot is not going to revolutionize the robotics industry.

A demonstration that arouses some skepticism

I want to set some expectations for our robot Optimus… Last year he was just a human in a robot suit, but we’ve come a long way and this is going to be very impressive in comparison Elon Musk said before Optimus took the stage. One of the engineers specified that it was the first time the robot had walked without tethering or support.

But after several months of development, the robot does not seem to be endowed with such exceptional capacities. Critics point to his slow and unsteady gait (when he walked on very flat ground without obstacles). He also did not perform any live demonstrations. However, a glimpse of its skills was shown in a video where the robot can be seen watering plants, carrying a box and picking up a metal rod.


Although the machine has five-fingered hands that promise near-human dexterity, robotics experts remain skeptical about its future capabilities. Indeed, Elon Musk has announced that his robot will be designed to perform tasks useful to humans, such as preparing meals or mowing the lawn.

When you’re trying to develop a robot that’s affordable and useful, a humanoid shape and size isn’t necessarily the best. », pointed out Tom Ryden, CEO of Mass Robotics, a non-profit start-up incubator. Honda has also developed a humanoid robot named Asimo in the past. Developed in 2000, it was the first humanoid robot capable of realistic walking; the most improved version could pour liquid into a glass. But the project never went beyond the research and development stage.

An “extraordinarily capable” robot under $20,000

Hyundai – Boston Dynamics’ majority shareholder since June 2021 – as well as Ford, which has partnered with Agility Robotics, have both been involved in humanoid robot projects. But while this research can potentially lead to machines capable of walking and overcoming obstacles, no project has yet led to a “real-world use case scenario,” notes Tom Ryden. Meanwhile, Elon Musk has clarified that Optimus is likely to be launched “within three to five years”.

Tesla’s goal is to produce an “extremely capable” robot in very large quantities (Musk is talking about millions of units), at a price that could be less than the cost of a car (estimated to be less than $20,000).

The latest generation Tesla Bot was also shown, although it can’t walk yet. ” We have an Optimus robot with fully Tesla designed drives, battery, control system, everything. It wasn’t quite ready, but we wanted to show you something pretty close to what’s going into production Musk said. In appearance, this latest prototype is actually a little closer to the concept that Tesla’s CEO unveiled last year. He is remarkably able to move each of his fingers independently and has opposable thumbs.

Will Tesla be the first manufacturer to offer a truly useful humanoid robot? At the moment, it has not performed better than existing projects in terms of autonomy and capabilities. It has 28 degrees of freedom and a further 11 degrees of freedom in each hand – which are designed to carry a 9kg bag; its 2.3 kWh battery allows it to be autonomous for about a full day of work. ” There is still a lot of work to be done to improve and improve Optimus “, admits Elon Musk. This means that Optimus was developed in a very short time (about eight months); so it may happen that within three years Tesla will surprise us with a truly “universal” robot.

source: IEEE spectrum

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