Tesla has released an update on its humanoid robot software known as the Tesla Bot or Optimus. The new images of the prototypes were quite impressive – making the project look less like a sideshow and more and more like a potentially real product.

When Elon Musk first announced the Tesla Bot, many laughed it off as a sideshow or distraction from Tesla’s more important mission to accelerate the emergence of sustainable energy.

The CEO hyped it up by describing how much value it would create by eliminating the labor crisis, but like Tesla’s autonomous driving effort, anyone can see the value in humanoid robots — the problem is that people have trouble seeing Tesla make it happen.

It didn’t help that the latest demo at Tesla AI Day last year was impressive.

At the time, Tesla had a very early prototype that didn’t look like much. He could barely walk around and wave to the crowd. That was about it.

The company had another prototype that looked sleeker, but it didn’t even make it in time for the launch.

Here’s what it looked like:

Tesla has argued that it has a huge opportunity to develop this humanoid robot because it can use much of the existing hardware and software from its self-driving technology developed for its electric vehicles.

Although Musk claimed early last year that it was a top priority at Tesla, it was unclear how much effort was being put into the project.

Now, at Tesla’s 2023 shareholder meeting today, Musk gave an update on the Tesla Bot, which included plenty of new footage of multiple prototypes:

The footage included 5 Tesla Optimus prototypes and they were seen performing simple tasks, walking around the office as well as other Tesla facilities where Cybertrucks are located.

The prototypes were slowly waking up, but they seemed stable.

Although the tasks they performed were not really impressive, Tesla made a lot of progress in the development of hands:

Tesla also looked at robots that detect and remember their environment.

Musk again claimed that “Optimus products are very undervalued.” The CEO said the demand could be up to 10-20 billion units.

He went so far as to “confidently predict” that Optimus would account for “the majority of Tesla’s long-term value.”

Electrke’s Take

I’m still skeptical about this project, but I have to give credit where credit is due. This looks like a significant improvement over the last demo from about 8 months ago.

Hands, the most difficult part of a humanoid robot, are really impressive here.

Now I think I’m still at least 3 years away from a useful product, but that would be amazing in itself.

Note that this timeline is when I think Tesla will have a useful self-driving car, which makes sense since Elon says Tesla is using AI development for Optimus to drive itself.

While we can argue the timeline, I wouldn’t bet against Tesla on this one. On the hardware side of things, they have a huge advantage in using current EV hardware.

When you think about it, there are no major engineering problems that need to be solved to create a humanoid robot. It just needs to be packaged efficiently, designed and manufactured so that the robot costs no more than $100,000.

People didn’t think it was possible with electric cars and Tesla did it. I think they can do it for humanoid robots.

The AI ​​side is a more difficult challenge. So I’m talking ~3 years for a useful product. This explains why Tesla has already made so many mistakes in developing AI for self-driving. These are mistakes that a robot will not make, and at some point it will run out of mistakes to make.

Also, a useful product does not mean a robot that can replace a significant part of human workers. This means that it will replace some workers at a cost. It will take a decade for the force to perform a large number of missions, and acquisition and operating costs will make it a worthwhile option for deployment at scale.

What Tesla is doing with electric cars is similar in terms of timeline.

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