Tesla presents its humanoid robot Optimus, while the markets await it in the electric car

Tesla presents its humanoid robot Optimus, while the markets await it in the electric car

Presentation of Tesla's Optimus robot, in Palo Alto, California, on September 30.

With cautious steps, wires and electronic chips exposed, “Bumble C” arrived on stage at the Tesla AI Day conference in Palo Alto, California on Friday, September 30. He drew a wave and the video showed him bringing a package to an employee and watering the plants. This copy of the humanoid robot Optimus, designed by Elon Musk’s Tesla company, made the show at the electric car manufacturer’s trade show dedicated to artificial intelligence.

Employees also drove a more advanced Optimus prototype, with fewer exposed wires, but still unable to walk on its own. Elon Musk acknowledged that other companies have designed more sophisticated robots, but “they lack brains and lack the intelligence to move on their own (…). And they are very expensive.”. Tesla also showed a video of the robot, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) developed by the company and tested in its self-driving cars, carrying boxes and placing them on a metal shelf in what looks like an assembly line. But the public did not get a chance to see the robot perform these tasks live.

“A Future of Abundance”

Elon Musk plans to test Optimus at the group’s factory in California to prove its usefulness. He hopes there will be a day ” friendly “ and that arguing with him will seem ” natural “. Promised security features, to prevent a “Terminator-like scenario”. “Of course there will be a ‘kitten’ version”the capricious businesswoman tweeted during the conference, with a photo of a female silhouette from the back, camped in front of a row of metal robots.

Tesla boss points to a robot that, over time, will cost “probably less than $20,000”and will be designed to be replicated in “millions of units”. Bet on the first deliveries within three to five years. The conference should be used to recruit more engineers to achieve this goal, and so “fundamentally transform civilization”.

Also read: Elon Musk sold nearly $7 billion worth of Tesla stock

The billionaire presented in 2021 this project of a robot that can perform repetitive tasks instead of humans. “It means a future of abundance, a future where there is no poverty, where people will have what they want in terms of products and services”detailed the head of SpaceX (rockets) and Neuralink (brain implants), never stingy with extraordinary predictions.

“This thing is going to fall a lot”

The presentation did not convince all observers of robotics research. “If you are looking to develop a robot that is both affordable and useful, choosing a humanoid appearance and size is not necessarily the most appropriate”, said Tom Ryden, CEO of the nonprofit startup incubator MassRobotics. Artificial intelligence researcher Filip Piekniewski judged on Twitter that it would be good to test the falls of the Optimus robot, “because this thing is going to fall a lot”. Expert Cynthia Yeung of Plus One Robotics said Tesla’s presentation had no “nothing avant-garde”.

Tesla is not the first automaker to embark on the design of humanoid robots. More than twenty years ago, Honda introduced Asimo, who looked like an astronaut, during a carefully planned demonstration in which he poured liquid into a glass. Hyundai also has a collection of human and animal-like robots since its 2021 acquisition of Boston Dynamics. Ford is a partner in US startup Agility Robotics, which produces four-limbed robots capable of walking and lifting packages.

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In Tom Ryden’s eyes, spectacular performances in the past have not led to “practical application scenarios” up to the big ads: these companies “Learn a lot about how humanoids work, but as far as having a robot as a mainstream product, I’m not sure it’s coming anytime soon.”

From the Optimus announcement, “Musk faces the skeptics”says analyst Dan Ives of investment bank Wedbush Securities. “The market is focused on improving batteries, on the productive capacities of the new factories in Berlin and Austin [Texas], and in the competition from all sides for electric cars. Not in humanoid robots. »

Conflict with Twitter

The boss is also divided on autonomous vehicles, which he has been promising very soon for years. Tesla’s Autopilot system is being investigated by US regulators for safety concerns by triggering unnecessary braking or crashing into parked emergency vehicles along highways with flashing lights. Elon Musk, believes to record the best scores in security tests. “You have a moral obligation” implement a self-driving car system “if the number of accidents and deaths is reduced”he said on Friday.

He also said twice on Friday that he was ” essential “ that the company that builds this robot is listed on the stock market, “because if the public doesn’t like what Tesla is doing, the public can buy shares and vote differently”. “It’s very important that I can’t just do what I want”he added between laughs.

This comment will not go unnoticed in the context of the conflict that opposes him to Twitter and that should lead to a high-risk trial in mid-October. The world’s richest man signed a contract to take over the social network in the spring, before reconsidering his decision in July. The platform is suing him to force him to fulfill his commitment. Elon Musk had said that he wanted to make Twitter a private company (not listed on the stock market), which would therefore escape any external control.

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Le Monde with AP and AFP

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