Tesla Optimus: Will Elon Musk be able to show us a humanoid robot this year

(ORDO NEWS) — In August last year at the Tesla AI Day conference, Elon Musk announced the company’s plans to start producing humanoid robots soon. This statement was met with a wave of criticism and skepticism.

Not so long ago, on his Twitter, Elon Musk, the head of Tesla and SpaceX , announced the postponement of the date of the new Tesla AI Day conference to September 30, since the company will probably be able to present a working prototype of the humanoid robot Optimus by the new date .

The first Tesla AI Day conference was mainly dedicated to Tesla ‘s most famous product, the self -driving driving program. Also introduced was the Dojo supercomputer.

But the loudest news was the plans to create a humanoid robot, which was first called Tesla Bot , and then given the official name – Optimus . The decision to try your hand at robotics is not as strange as it might seem at first glance.

“ Tesla is probably the biggest robot company in the world. Our cars are actually semi-intelligent robots on wheels,” Musk explained at the time during the speech.

“It seems reasonable to give them a humanoid form. We’re pretty good at making sensors, batteries and actuators, so we think we’ll probably have a prototype next year.”

Indeed, Tesla has the knowledge and technology to build the most problematic parts of these robots: actuators, batteries, sensors, and AI brains.

At first, the robot will be programmed to perform the simplest actions and will be used in Tesla factories , but over time it will be improved to eventually save people from having to perform “dangerous, repetitive, boring tasks,” Musk said.

The robot will be able to carry over long distances up to 20 kilograms and lift up to 68 kilograms of cargo. And he will not pose a danger to people, because people will be able to overtake him: Optimus will reach a speed of no more than eight kilometers per hour.

According to Musk, the robot can even be overpowered, but he did not specify whether the restriction would be software or physical.

Does it even make sense to create anthropomorphic robots? On the one hand, all the man-made space around us was created for a person (and his forms and needs), so it will also suit a humanoid robot.

On the other hand, from the point of view of robotics, the human form is energy-consuming, unstable and not so effective in performing specific tasks.

Therefore, roboticists are always faced with the question of which side to solve the task of doing work: based on how a person performs a specific job (loads the dishwasher), or based on the final goal (washed dishes), rebuilding the environment and optimizing the actions of the robot.

The second is simpler and more efficient – this is how production is now robotized. But the humanoid form is a complex and interesting task, which is why so many companies have been developing their bipedal robots for decades.

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Tesla Optimus computer model

The most advanced humanoid robot today is Atlas from Boston Dynamics , which has always declared its inventions primarily as scientific and design developments, and not commercial projects.

The company has been working on Atlas (including its predecessor) for more than a decade, and despite impressive acrobatics, the bipedal robot still stumbles and falls frequently. And we do not even appreciate our human balance! And what, Musk plans to achieve such results in a year?

Let’s compare the declared characteristics of Tesla Optimus and Atlas . With a height of about 1.7 meters and a weight of 56 kilograms, Optimus has 40 degrees of freedom.

Atlas is slightly smaller (one and a half meters), weighs significantly more (80 kilograms), has only 28 degrees of freedom and can lift about 11 kilograms. It’s hard to believe that Optimus will lift as much as six times more.

However, when a Twitter user asked if the prototype would be similar to the illustrations and models shown, Musk replied in the negative (no wonder, just take a look at the comparison illustration below).

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Known and declared characteristics and sizes of robots from different companies

Now let’s look at the characteristics of Pal Robotics ‘ Talos . This robot was developed specifically for work in factories, in rescue operations and in space. With a height of 1.75 meters, it weighs 95 kilograms, has 32 degrees of freedom and lifts up to six kilograms in each “hand”.

Honda has a more social development . They have been working on the Asimo robot since 1986. The latest version is much lower (1.3 meters) and lighter (53 kilograms) than the previous ones – just for the convenience of working in residential areas. Asimo has 57 degrees of freedom.

Of the relatively recent developments, it is worth mentioning Agility Robotics ‘ Digit . It is also low (1.55 meters) and light (42.4 kilograms). It is estimated to have 22 degrees of freedom, but can lift up to 18 kilograms. The robot navigates in space using lidar.

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The Atlas robot has been in development for more than a decade

Against the backdrop of these developments, the announced Optimus looks so impressive, as if that was its main goal – to look impressive. The mechanical chatbot Sophia immediately comes to mind . This bot, like a magician, misleads the interlocutors, creating the impression of reasonableness.

Andrey Sebrant, the author of the TechSparks Telegram channel and Yandex services marketing director, called her “an art project that has degraded to a PR project,” and emphasized that Sophia’s intellect is predominantly operator’s.

Sophia’s co-creator, Ben Goertzel , openly admits that the robot is pushing us into fantasies of a technological future. And at the same time attracts investors:

“If I tell people that with the help of probabilistic logic I draw conclusions about how best to simplify the trees of inverse inference that arise in the machine of our logic, they will not understand me.

But when I show them the smiling face of the robot, it starts to seem to them that artificial general intelligence may soon become a reality.”

In his speech, Musk also mentioned artificial general intelligence (AGI) – an intelligence that, unlike a highly specialized one, will be able to learn, adapt and solve different problems like a person. Musk believes that their humanoid Optimus could play a big role in the emergence of such technology.

Will they succeed? Neural network specialist Stephan Chalup , head of the robotics lab at Newcastle University, is optimistic: “They have the battery technology, and that’s usually the biggest issue. More importantly, they have experience with self-driving cars.”

According to Chalap, the most difficult task will be the orientation of the robot in a house or store – it is much more difficult than driving on the road: “Optimized roads are already a simplified environment with lanes, road signs and precise rules.

There are no hard and fast rules in the human environment.” It will be just a car: “I think they can build a kind of unmanned vehicle on two legs that can move in our conditions.” As for the timing, Chalap is much more critical: “It is worth counting on the 2050s.”

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Elon Musk at the TED conference in 2013

Indeed, Elon Musk has repeatedly talked about high-profile Tesla projects that were eventually canceled or transformed: a solar-powered charging network, battery replacement, charging wire robots, and others. None of the Hyperloop projects ever came to fruition.

At last year’s conference, Optimus eclipsed Tesla ‘s main developments to date : AI technologies and the Dojo supercomputer project , which should improve the company’s unmanned technologies as quickly as possible.

The fully autonomous driving system has been in testing mode since the end of 2020, and by the end of 2022 the number of testers should have expanded to one million beta testers. The more testers, the more data, the better the unmanned system.

But training Optimus will also require a huge amount of data that simply cannot be collected in a year. Tesla is able to create a humanoid robot that can walk across a stage, carry a load, and perform other simple programmed actions. But can the robot demonstrate something more?

At the end of January 2022, Elon Musk said that he considers the robot to be the main product of the company: “I think that the main product that we are working on this year is the humanoid robot Optimus.

[This project], I think, has the potential to become more important than cars over time.” If a significant part of the company’s attention is focused on this project, a decent result can be obtained.

In addition, the requirements for such a robot will still be much lower than for an unmanned driving system. The driving system must perform its task better than a human, otherwise it is useless, and the robot is useful even if it can perform simple actions. But for now, the main technological highlight of the next Tesla’s AI Day remains the fully autonomous driving system.

In May, the system received its largest update , Version 2022.12.3.10 , consisting of more than 250,000 new video clips to train the algorithm. Three old neural networks were also removed, which increased the frame rate of the Tesla cameras . It was stated that now the system makes decisions more confidently.

It remains to wait until September 30th. Maybe we’ll hear some news about Dojo at the same time.

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