Tesla unveils Optimus humanoid robot

Elon Musk unveiled his first humanoid robot prototype “Optimus” yesterday. He should score with a brain based on the “Autopilot” software.

(Image: Tesla)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has demonstrated the prototype of a humanoid robot that he believes could eventually become more important than the company’s electric cars. The machine, with uncovered mechanical joints and cables, took a few steps on a stage at an event on Saturday night and waved to the audience. Tesla is aiming for a price of $20,000 for the Optimus robot, Musk said.

The robot moves more awkwardly than the more well-known humanoid robots from Boston Dynamics, which can run, dance and jump. However, Musk sees an advantage for the Tesla robot in the fact that it can use the technology of the “Autopilot” driver assistance system to recognize its surroundings, which the company’s cars use. Videos showed how the 73-kilogram robot carries a box, waters flowers with a watering can, and moves a metal component in Tesla’s car factory.

The group wants to develop a useful robot that can be built as quickly as possible, Musk said. One of the developers spoke of the prospect that the machines could not only be produced in thousands, but also in millions. Musk was convinced that robots could provide “a future with plenty, a future without poverty”. In the past, the tech billionaire had already predicted that the robot project could become more important than Tesla’s car production over time. When Optimus was announced more than a year ago Tesla had put a human in a robot costume, which caused some ridicule at the time. This time, a newer metal-clad prototype was carried onto the stage by Tesla employees because it can’t walk on its own yet.

The pioneer Boston Dynamics, which was part of Google in the meantime, now belongs to the South Korean Hyundai group. Tesla also used the event to explain the technology behind “Autopilot” and its machine learning programs. A special focus was on how well the cars can recognize and understand their surroundings with the help of their eight cameras. Musk says he’s confident Tesla can handle autonomous driving with cameras alone, without the more expensive laser radars other robotic car tech developers are counting on.

160,000 Tesla customers in the USA are currently driving with a test version of the assistance software, which is intended to control the cars in city traffic, among other things, instead of just keeping them in the lane and keeping their distance. The software often made a bad impression in videos from beta testers. Musk said that Tesla should be ready, at least technically, to introduce the test software in other countries by the end of the year. However, local regulatory requirements could delay the launch outside of the US.

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