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Tesla presents Optimus, a walking robot that could arrive in 2027

Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the company’s Tesla Bot on Friday, a robot codenamed Optimus that would crawl around a stage, wave, raise its arms in a kind of very slow dance move, and could go out the sale in 2027.

“Our goal is to make a useful humanoid robot as quickly as possible,” Musk said, predicting that sales would start “probably within three years and no more than five years.”

The robot wasn’t as flashy as others, like Boston Dynamics’ Atlas, but it’s what Tesla put together in less than 8 months. “The robot can do so much more than what we’re showing you. We just didn’t want it to fall flat on its face,” Musk joked. Tesla AI Day 2022an event designed to showcase the company’s robot and autonomous vehicle technology, called Full self-driving or FSD.

Ultimately, Musk wants to build millions of Tesla Bots and sell them for $20,000 each. However, take those projections with care. Tesla has been successful as a carmaker, leading the rest of the industry toward an electric vehicle future, but has missed many deadlines along the way.

Optimus’ effort, while still early days, is among the most ambitious in the world of robotics given how widespread and capable Tesla hopes robots can become. But progress is difficult. Rivals like boston dynamics have worked for years on humanoid robots, but have so far only produced prototypes. More common are robots with more limited abilities, such as wheeled delivery robots either Amazon Stara camera-equipped home tablet on wheels.

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AI technology works best with limited jobs, but Tesla’s car-driving technology and robots must have immense real-world variety. But Optimus will likely lead a sheltered life to begin with. The company plans to use it first in Tesla’s own factories.

Two Tesla Bots on stage

Musk showed two robots. The first walking model was built with commercially available mechanical actuators. The second, whose limbs and fingers were controlled by Tesla’s own actuators, could not walk but could grasp with his hands. In one video, the bots could do more, including lifting boxes and spinning at the waist.

“He wasn’t quite ready to walk, but I think he will walk in a few weeks,” Musk said of the second Optimus robot.

The first prototype of Optimus, the codename for the Tesla Bot, waves an arm at the Tesla AI Day 2022 event.

Screenshot by Claire Reilly/CNET

The second Optimus prototype weighs 161 pounds (73 kg). It uses a variation of the same computing hardware that powers Tesla’s self-driving vehicle technology, called FSD. Its battery pack has a capacity of 2.3 kilowatt hours, “perfect for a full day of work,” said an engineer. It consumes about 100 watts of power sitting down and 500 watts when walking briskly. That’s kind of like a high-end gaming PC.

The first robot walked at a slow, shuffling pace, one foot placed just in front of the other. His bent knees gave him a somewhat prissy walk. He was able to twist and flex at the waist. His body was studded with mostly green LEDs, and his chest featured a large computer with two spinning fans to cool the processors.

Tesla engineers emphasized the degrees of freedom in the Optimus robots, essentially the different ways it could bend or twist at different joints. The entire robot body has more than 200 degrees of freedom, 27 of them in the hands alone, Tesla said.

Tesla uses the same AI software to control the Tesla Bot that it uses in its cars. Some of the same technology applies, such as measuring the “occupancy” of nearby areas. It is only trained with real-world environments rather than driving videos, Tesla said.

Musk didn’t hold back on sci-fi promises for his robots. With robots at work, the economy is entering a new era, a “future of abundance, a future where there is no poverty, a future where you can have whatever you want in terms of products and services,” Musk said. “It really is a fundamental transformation of civilization as we know it.”


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