In June, Musk announced that Artificial Intelligence Day, originally scheduled to take place on August 19, would be moved to September. In a tweet at the time, the eccentric multi-billionaire indicated that the development of Optimus was in the main reason. A working prototype could be presented by the end of September, reason enough to postpone the entire event.
This development seems to be progressing very quickly (although Musk often misses his ambitious deadlines). After all, the robot was first announced in August 2021. Although it initially looked like a side project within the company, Musk quickly clarified that Optimus and AI development would become one of the company’s priorities in 2022. “People don’t realize the magnitude of the Optimus robot program,” he said as recently as April.
It is not yet known what this first prototype will be able to do, but Musk’s ultimate goal is to develop a humanoid-like robot that will spark a real revolution. Optimus will be about 170 centimeters tall, will be able to carry loads of up to 20 kilograms and will be equipped with an AI very similar to the software that equips Tesla’s electric cars.
The robots will initially be used in Tesla factories to perform “dirty and dangerous tasks”, the billionaire explained. Musk reportedly intends to produce thousands of units. In recent months, the businessman has reportedly increased internal meetings on the implementation of robots, told Reuters an anonymous source with knowledge of the case.
But eventually, the robots will have to be used outside Tesla factories. In fact, the electric car maker would eventually like to produce millions of Optimus robots. These could be used in households to perform daily chores, or serve as orderlies in nursing homes. In October 2021, Musk even joked that a “cat girl” version might appear, a hybrid character between a woman and a cat who mainly appears in some anime and manga.
But before you can buy a Tesla-robot from your store, the company still has a long way to go. Although the world’s richest man believes the robot business will eventually become more important to Tesla than the car business, experts believe it will be a long time before a humanoid robot can move around efficiently and apprehend the world.
A few years ago, Musk himself criticized Tesla’s “overreliance” on robots. These were more expensive to maintain than simply hiring humans to perform the same tasks and, not to mention that they often had problems completing them.
And yet, they were still simple robots that only had to perform one or a handful of tasks. A “general purpose” robot like Optimus will be even more difficult to create, told Reuters Shaun Azimi, roboticist at the American space agency NASA. “Self-driving cars weren’t as easy as everyone thought. The same goes for humanoid robots,” Azimi said.
Is the plan realistic?
To prove itself, Optimus should be able to perform multiple unprogrammed actions during AI Day, says Nancy Cooke, professor of human systems engineering at Arizona State University (USA). “If he makes the robot walk around, or do a dance, it’s already been done. It’s not impressive,” she said.
Musk himself seems to recognize the scale of the challenge. The business mogul has repeatedly indicated that AI is not yet advanced enough to work in daily life, but that Tesla can use its existing AI expertise to advance.
This expertise must be greatly strengthened in the months to come. The company reportedly has dozens of job postings for people with robotics experience. This immediately highlights his ambition. “The code you write will be copied into millions of humanoid robots around the world and will be held to high standards for that reason,” reads one of the job postings.
So even if the September 30 demo disappoints, it’s clear the company is serious about developing Optimus. And while it may seem far-fetched that Tesla would bring human-like robots into homes in no time, 20 years ago it was equally unthinkable that electric cars would be popular, or that rockets could fall untouched afterward. their usage.