Tesla unveiled its newest artificial intelligence (AI) project, a humanoid robot named Optimus, on Sept. 30. The reveal was made at an AI Day event hosted by Tesla in Palo Alto, Calif.
This robot is part of a long-term effort by Tesla to generate AI systems capable of making human-like decisions independently from humans.
At the demonstration, Optimus used self-driving technology to demonstrate a full range of movements, including walking, waving, picking up objects and watering plants. This demonstration was the result of months of training.
“This was literally the first time the robot was operated without (a tether) onstage tonight,” said Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, at the event. “We didn’t want it to fall on its face.”
This year’s demonstration was a dramatic improvement from AI Day 2021. At that event, Tesla did not yet have a prototype. Instead, a dancer was hired to dance across the stage in a Tesla Bot spandex unitard.
A statement from Tesla explained that this generation of the robot also contains Wi-Fi and long-term evolution (LTE) capabilities similar to a cell phone, and there are cybersecurity features being implemented to maintain privacy. Tesla paid special attention to the battery life of the robot. Tesla has stated that they intend to create a unique battery that would keep power consumption to a minimum and allow the robot to complete a full day’s work on a single charge.
Musk designed Optimus with the intention of having a robot capable of “replacing humans” in simple, repetitive tasks. It could also replace people in potentially dangerous jobs in factories.
The inspiration for Optimus was ultimately formed by the worker shortage in the manufacturing industry. With manufacturing jobs making up over 10% of U.S. jobs, this technology can potentially bring drastic changes to the U.S. economy.
“The foundation of the economy is labor,” Musk said. “So what happens if you don’t actually have a labor shortage? I’m not sure what an economy even means at that point. That’s what Optimus is about.”
Organized labor initially showed resistance to the robotic technology proposed by Musk. However, they could not deny the advantages this technology could produce in terms of increased worker safety.
“This technology is important because it would help us to automate complicated, potentially risky processes,” said Josiah Norrie, senior mechanical engineering major.
By replacing human workers with robots like Optimus, workplaces could minimize safety concerns and allow individuals to find jobs supporting their creativity.
“We can set a lot of people free who work inside of those factories doing repetitive jobs,” said Dr. Seung-Jae Kim, professor of bioengineering. “But rather than them just losing their job, they can look for some other job where they can use their creativity or incorporate more personality into their job.”
The Tesla AI bot does not have a specific rollout timeline. However, Musk said people could expect to receive an Optimus in three to five years. This announcement comes after Musk informed stockholders that Tesla would be prioritizing the development of Optimus.
While the development of Optimus does not fall under Tesla’s mission to “accelerate the advent of sustainable transport,” Musk continues to passionately pursue the project.
“Optimus is not directly in line with accelerating sustainable energy,” Musk said in an interview with Reuters. “I think the mission does somewhat broaden with the advent of Optimus to — you know, I don’t know: making the future awesome.”