Tesla unveiled a prototype humanoid robot Friday that it says could be a future product for the automaker.
The robot, dubbed by Tesla Optimus, stiffly walked onstage during Tesla’s AI Day, slowly waving to the crowd and gesturing with its hands for about a minute. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the robot worked without a chain for the first time. Robotics developers often use chains to support robots because they are unable to walk without falling and harming themselves.
The capabilities of the Optimus appear to significantly follow what robots from competitors such as Hyundai-owned Boston Dynamics are capable of. Boston Dynamics robots have been seen doing backflips and performing advanced dance routines without a chain.
“The robot can actually do a lot more than we just showed you,” Musk said at the event. “We just didn’t want it to fall on his face.”
Tesla also showed videos of his robot performing simple tasks such as carrying boxes and watering plants with a watering can.
Musk claimed that if the robot were mass-produced, it would “probably” cost less than $20,000. Tesla maintains that Optimus advantage above competitors will be its ability to navigate independently using technology developed from Tesla’s “Full Self Driving” driver assistance system, as well as cost savings from what it has learned about manufacturing from its auto division. (Tesla’s “Full Self Driving” requires a human who is alert and attentive, ready to take over at any moment, as he is not yet able to fully drive himself.)
Tesla has a history of aggressive price targets that ultimately fail. The Tesla Model 3 was long promised as a $35,000 vehicle, but could only be purchased for that price for a very short time, and not directly on its website. The most affordable Tesla Model 3 now costs $46,990. When Tesla unveiled the Cybertruck in 2019, its pickup truck that is still unavailable for purchase today, it was said to cost $39,990, but the price has since been removed from Tesla’s website.
Tesla AI Day is largely intended as a recruitment event to attract talented people to the company.
Musk claimed the robot could be transformative for civilization. The robot shown on Friday, despite its limitations compared to competitors, was significantly ahead of what Tesla unveiled a year ago, when a person in a robotic suit jumped on stage and danced around.
“Last year was just a person in a robot suit,” Musk said before the robot took the stage. “We have come a long way. Compared to that, it becomes very impressive.”
Tesla isn’t the first automaker to develop a humanoid robot. Along with Hyundai’s Boston Dynamics, Honda worked on robots called “Asimo” for nearly 20 years. In his final form, Asimo was a humanoid robot the size of a child who was able to walk, run, climb and descend stairs untethered, and manipulate objects with his fingers.
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