It is called “Bumble C”: it is the prototype of the humanoid robot “Optimus” unveiled by Elon Musk on Friday September 30, 2022, on the occasion of Tesla AI Day 2022, in Palo Alto (California). As usual, the boss of the electric car manufacturer gave in the science fiction reference: Bumblebee (“Bumble B”) and Optimus Prime are characters from the Transformers universe, in other words a Volkswagen Beetle and a Peterbilt 379 truck capable of taking the form of human-shaped machines.
“Millions of units” of the humanoid robot Optimus
From there to instilling the subliminal idea that Tesla cars could one day turn into robots, there is only one step… which Musk has not yet taken! In the explanation given by the billionaire, Optimus – whose advent he announced in 2021 – is intended to perform repetitive tasks instead of humans. “It means a future of abundance, got carried away Musk, a future where there is no poverty, where people will have what they want in terms of products and services”. Presented on the Palo Alto stage, the robot sketched a hand salute; and a video showed him bringing a package to an employee and a watering can in his hand. According to the Muskian forecast, the robot will cost ultimately “probably less than $20,000” and will be produced in “million units”. The first deliveries? They would intervene within three to five years.
The Optimus prototype, on stage in Palo Alto, September 30, 2022. Credit Tesla/ AFP.
Of course, it is doubtful, as Musk’s time is always shortened compared to real time. Moreover, the capacity of Optimus seems singularly limited, especially if we compare it to what are capable of other humanoid robots, such as the Boston Dynamics Atlas, capable of doing “parkour”. To this, the creator of SpaceX replies that he “they lack a brain and they don’t have the necessary intelligence to move on their own (…) And they are very expensive.”
For Musk, the “existential threat” AI-powered robots seem a thing of the past
What brain can Optimus boast? Impossible for the moment to say. The fact remains that the presentation of this machine shows a 180° turn of Musk on the question of artificial intelligence. During his first media outings on the subject, he said that AI would impose on humanity a “existential threat” (It was October 24, 2014 during a symposium at MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology). He now seems ready to imagine that robots could evolve among humans, driven by digital intelligence, ensuring that security features will avoid a “Terminator-like storyline”. In the meantime, he obviously created Neuralink, the company that wants to put electronic chips in human brains, which we now imagine will be able to collaborate with Tesla on the Optimus site.