Elon Musk says more about Tesla’s humanoid robot

Picture: Tesla.

Tesla is set to unveil a new humanoid robot, dubbed Optimus, at the end of September.

Tesla’s strategy for entering the robotics market has been the subject of much speculation, and a recent message from boss Elon Musk sheds some new light.

In this message, published in the official documentation of the Chinese Cyberspace Administration, Elon Musk continues to argue what he has been stressing since the announcement of the Tesla Bot project in 2021: Tesla, because of its significant investments in driving autonomous, is arguably the largest robotics company in the world.

A new category of humanoid robots

While some of the big robotics players, like ABB, can argue with that claim, Elon Musk has a point. Tesla deals not only with the software foundations of automation (artificial intelligence, neural networks, differential motors), but also with the hardware (sensors, actuators).

If the company has so far focused on wheeled machines, is it really a big leap to put the same technology in a bipedal humanoid?

Just a few years ago, the answer would probably have been yes. But advances in reproducing the bipedal gait over the past 15 years, along with advances in robotic controls by companies like Boston Dynamics, have paved the way for a new class of humanoid robots.

Domestic robotics in the viewfinder

What one wonders is rather how a humanoid robot fits into Tesla’s business model. And the answer is not so clear. In his message, Elon Musk clearly underlines that the idea is to eventually target the general public with domestic robotics.

But this market has proven to be spectacularly frugal and hasn’t reached appreciable maturity, apart from a few notable exceptions (including iRobot’s Roomba).

Of course, that doesn’t mean the market won’t evolve, and Amazon’s acquisition of iRobot is likely to bring a lot of publicity for this area.

Tesla in homes

But between a robot vacuum cleaner and a humanoid robot, there is a world. And a lot has to happen in terms of technology development and cost of production for that reality to be achievable.

Most likely, in fact, Elon Musk is positioning Tesla to be part of the fight for decades to come.

Whether the company’s interest in this development can survive what will almost certainly be a disappointment after this recent hype remains to be seen: humanoid robots just aren’t ready to go mainstream when it comes to perform a variety of routine tasks in unstructured environments.

Look to fit

“Today’s cars look more and more like smart, connected robots on wheels. In fact, besides cars, humanoid robots are also becoming a reality, with Tesla and his versatile humanoid robot (Tesla Bot),” argues Elon Musk in his article.

“The Tesla Bot has a size and weight close to that of an adult, it can carry or pick up heavy objects, walk quickly with small steps, and the screen on its face is an interactive interface for communicating with others” , he describes.

“You might be wondering why we designed this robot with legs? Because human society is based on the interaction of a biped with two arms and ten fingers. So if we want a robot to adapt to its environment and be able to do what humans do, it needs to be roughly the same size, shape, and capabilities as a human. »

Advance technology and production

“Tesla Bot was originally intended to replace humans in repetitive, boring and dangerous tasks. Eventually, the goal is that it can serve millions of households – for example to cook, mow the lawns or take care of the elderly, ”explains the leader of Tesla.

“To achieve this goal, robots must evolve to become intelligent enough, and we must have the ability to mass-produce them,” he adds.

“Our ‘four-wheeled robots’ – cars – have changed the way people move and even live. One day, when we have solved the problem of self-driving cars (i.e. artificial intelligence in the real world), we will be able to extend artificial intelligence technology to humanoid robots, which will have a much wider application than cars. »

The human exception

“We plan to launch the first humanoid robot prototype this year, and focus on improving the intelligence of this robot and solving the problem of large-scale production,” said Elon Musk.

“Thereafter, the usefulness of humanoid robots will increase every year as production scales up and costs come down. In the future, a home robot could be cheaper than a car. Maybe in less than a decade people will be able to buy a robot for their parents as a birthday present,” he predicts.

“With the power of robots, it is possible that an era of extreme abundance of goods and services will be created, where everyone can live a life of abundance. In this future, perhaps the only rarity will be that which we ourselves create as human beings. »

Source: ZDNet.com

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