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Thursday, December 1, 2022

Musk’s ‘Teslabot’ reveal savagely mocked

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The long-awaited reveal of Elon Musk’s “Teslabot” robot has been mocked online as hilariously underwhelming.

Dubbed “The Tesla Bot” or “Optimus”, the first prototype of the 125-pound (57kg) robot – designed to complete “dangerous, menial or boring tasks”, starting on Tesla’s own assembly lines, according to Musk – was unveiled at the electric carmaker’s annual AI Day on Friday.

The robot very slowly walked out on stage, waved to the crowd and performed a few dance moves, before turning around and shuffling back the way it came.

“This is literally the first time the robot has operated without a tether is onstage tonight,” Musk told the audience gathered at the Tesla office in Palo Alto, California.

“The robot can actually do a lot more than we just showed you, we just didn’t want it to fall on its face.”

The crowd was then shown video of the robot performing tasks including picking up boxes, watering plants and moving metal bars in the Tesla factory.

Musk then introduced another version of the robot closer to the final version that will go into production, which “wasn’t quite ready to walk”.

The sleeker looking prototype was awkwardly manhandled on stage by three assistants.

Software engineer and progressive political activist Brianna Wu was among those mocking the reveal on Twitter.

“Elon just unveiled the Teslabot and it’s LOOKING AMAZING. Welcome to the future!” she wrote sarcastically, adding, ”Disneyland had better animatronics in the ’60s, lol.”

Author Christopher Sebela joked, “Finally, a robot that simulates when you get too blotto and your three friends have to help you walk out of the bar.”

The Economist’s Mike Bird added, “Bicentennial Man after 12 pints.”

One Twitter user complained that there was “so much hype, so little delivery”.

Another agreed, “[For real] this seems like something a college engineering class could build. This is coming from a Tesla investor too.”

Musk told the crowd the goal was to “make a useful humanoid robot as quickly as possible”.

“We’ve also designed it using the same discipline we use in designing the car, which is to say, to design it for manufacturing such that it’s possible to make the robot in high volume at low cost,” he said.

“That’s incredibly important because we’ve all seen very impressive humanoid robot demonstrations, and that’s great, but what are they missing? They’re missing a brain, they don’t have the intelligence to navigate the world by themselves, and they’re also very expensive and made in low volume.”

Musk said Optimus, on the other hand, was “designed to be an extremely capable robot, but made in very high volume, probably ultimately millions of units, and it’s expected to cost much less than a car”.

“I would say probably less than $US20,000 would be my guess,” he said.

After the event, Musk joked on Twitter, “Naturally, there will be a catgirl version of our Optimus robot.”

Musk first explained the idea for the I, Robot-like machines at last year’s AI Day, saying that they are designed to work closely with both humans and other machines to accomplish tasks.

Early diagrams revealed that Optimus would have a display screen on its “face” and five-fingered hands with dexterity akin to a real person’s.

The bots will be equipped with a version of Tesla’s autonomous navigation system found in its cars, where several camera systems work together to identify and clear obstacles. Optimus will also be able to respond to instructions like “please go to the store and get me the following groceries”, Musk said earlier.

The Tesla chief executive even said that the robots would have a personality, which he described as “friendly”.

He added that, despite concerns spurred by sci-fi films, the robots are harmless. They are designed with a top speed of 5mph (8km/h) “so you can run away from it and most likely overpower it”, Musk said.

Tesla plans to deploy the worker-bee bots on its floors first as a proof of concept, before looking to sell the machines elsewhere.

While the idea may be futuristic, many AI experts have questioned the efficiency of Musk’s bipedal robots over existing factory machines, such as the robot arms used on automobile assembly lines.

“If he just gets the robot to walk around, or he gets the robots to dance, that’s already been done,” said Nancy Cooke, a professor in human systems engineering at Arizona State University, in an interview with Reuters. “That’s not that impressive.”

Shaun Azimi, head of NASA’s Dexterous Robotics Team, also expressed scepticism about the idea.

“Self-driving cars weren’t really proved to be as easy as anyone thought,” he told Reuters.

“And it’s the same way with humanoid robots to some extent. If something unexpected happens, being flexible and robust to those kinds of changes is very difficult.”

— with NY Post

Originally published as Elon Musk reveals Tesla’s Optimus humanoid robot at AI Day 2022

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