Tesla robot walks, waves, but does not show complex tasks

DETROIT (AP) – An early prototype of Tesla Inc.’s planned Optimus Optimus humanoid robot walked. slowly and calmly on stage, turned, and bowed to a cheering crowd at the company’s artificial intelligence event on Friday.

But CEO Elon Musk’s vision of a humanoid robot that could revolutionize basic tasks with exposed wires and electronics – as well as a next-generation version to be brought on stage by three men – was a far cry from . The world.

Musk told the crowd, many of whom may be Tesla employees, that the robot can do much more than what the audience saw on Friday. He said he’s also sensitive and “we didn’t want it to fall on his face.”

Musk suggested that the problem with flashy robot displays is that the robots are “brain-missing” and lack the intelligence to navigate themselves, but he gave little evidence on Friday that Optimus was smarter than robots. developed by other companies and researchers. .

The demo didn’t impress AI researcher Filip Piekniewski, who tweeted that it was “next level cringeworthy” and “a complete and utter scam”. He said it would be “good to test the drop, because this thing is going to drop a lot.”

“None of this is groundbreaking,” tweeted robotics expert Cynthia Yeung. “Hire some PhDs and go to some @Tesla robotics conferences.”

Yeung also questioned why Tesla chose to have a human hand with five fingers for its robot, noting “there’s a reason” warehouse robots developed by startups use pinchers with two or three fingers.

Musk said Friday night was the first time the early robot walked on stage without a leash. Tesla’s goal, he said, is to make an “extremely capable” robot in high numbers – perhaps millions of them – at a cost that could be less than a car, which he thought would be less than $20,000.

Tesla showed a video of the robot, which uses artificial intelligence that Tesla is testing in its “Full Self-Driving” vehicles, carrying boxes and inserting metal bars like a factory machine. But there was no live demonstration of the robot performing the tasks.

Employees told the crowd in Palo Alto, California, as well as those watching via live stream, that they have been working on Optimus for the past six to eight months. People can probably buy Optimus “within three to five years,” Musk said.

Employees said the Optimus robots would have four fingers and a thumb with a tendon-like system so they could have the dexterity of humans.

The robot is backed by massive artificial intelligence computers that track millions of video frames from “Full Self-Thriving” cars. Similar computers would be used to teach the robots tasks, they said.

Experts in the field of robotics have suspected that Tesla is close to rolling out legions of humanoid home robots that can do the “useful things” Musk wants them to do – say, make dinner, mow the lawn, keep look at an aging grandmother.

“When you’re trying to develop a robot that’s affordable and useful, being human-sized isn’t necessarily the best way,” said Tom Ryden, executive director of the nonprofit startup incubator Mass Robotics.

Tesla is not the first car company to experiment with humanoid robots.

More than twenty years ago Honda unveiled Asimo, which resembled a life-sized space suit and was shown in a carefully orchestrated demonstration of being able to pour liquid into a cup. Hyundai also has a collection of human and animal robots through its acquisition of robotics firm Boston Dynamics in 2021. Ford is partnering with Oregon startup Agility Robotics, which makes two-legged, two-armed robots that can walk and lift packages.

Ryden said that while carmakers’ research into robotics could lead to machines that can walk, climb and overcome obstacles, past impressive demonstrations that live up to the hype have not led to a “real use case.”

“They’re learning a lot from understanding the way anthropoids function,” he said. “But in terms of actually having a humanoid as a product, I’m not sure if that’s going to come out anytime soon.”

Critics also said years ago that Musk and Tesla would not be able to build a profitable new car company that used batteries for power instead of gasoline.

Tesla is testing “Fully Self-Driving” vehicles on public roads, but they must be monitored by select owners who must be ready to intervene at all times. The company says there are about 160,000 vehicles equipped with the test software on the road today.

Critics have said that the Teslas, which rely on cameras and powerful computers to drive themselves, do not have enough sensors to drive safely. Tesla’s less capable Autopilot driver assistance system, with the same camera sensors, is under investigation by US safety regulators for braking for no reason and repeatedly running into emergency vehicles with flashing lights parked on highways .

In 2019, Musk promised that a fleet of autonomous robotaxis would be in use by the end of 2020. They are still being tested.

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O’Brien reported from Providence, Rhode Island.

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