Is Musk Serious About Tesla Bot?

Elon Musk has a new product for the world, but in some way, it kind of looks like a joke. So, what is it?

Meet Tesla Bot

Last Thursday, the CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, unveiled a humanoid robot called the Tesla Bot, code named ‘Optimus’, at the end of Tesla’s AI Day presentation. The bot is being proposed as a non-automotive robotic use case for the company’s work on neural networks, and its Dojo advanced supercomputer. The bot will weigh 125 pounds, and have a walking gait of 5 miles per hour. The bot will be able to carry 45 pounds, lift 150 pounds.

The robot’s head will be kitted out with the autopilot cameras utilised by Tesla’s vehicles to sense the environment, and will contain a screen to display information. Internally, it will be operating through Tesla’s Full Self-Driving computer. So, what is this robot supposed to do? Musk said that this bot could handle “dangerous, repetitive, boring” jobs such as going to the store to buy groceries. Musk added, as mentioned by CNET, “Essentially, in the future, physical work will be a choice. If you want to do it, you can, but you won’t need to do it.” Musk said that he hoped for a Tesla Bot prototype next year.

The Current Robots

Robots have always been somewhat of an obsession for humankind. There are numerous science fiction books about artificial intelligence, and humanoid robots, and they have also occupied a major portion in films, and TV shows. However, creating a robot like the one that we have seen in Steven Spielberg’s Artificial Intelligence or the ones that we saw in I, Robot are not that easy. On the other hand, we do have robots that we use in our daily lives.

The best established robot product line probably is for models that will clean our floor. iRobot was the company, which began the trend with its Roomba line. Meanwhile, now there are plenty of other robot vacuum cleaners and floor moppers. iRobot, Eufy, and Samsung are some of the makers of robot vacuum cleaners.

Companies are also experimenting with robots that deliver directly to customers. Recently, in Berkeley, California, a fleet of Kiwibots cruised the streets with meals for the city’s students. Two and a half years ago, Amazon started its Scout delivery bot program. The e-commerce giant also set up a Scout R&D centre in Helsinki. Google, Postmates are also working on robotic delivery services.

Dubai is using a Pal Robotics creation, and these bots act as police bot in malls, and tourist areas. Boston Dynamics is a company that has backflip-capable humanoid Atlas robots. These robots might be the closest thing to a Tesla bot until now. At present, Boston Dynamics is selling the doglike Spot Mini. Double Robotics uses a telepresence robot, which puts an iPad on a stable that you can wheel around an office. Your face appears on the iPad screen, and the iPad’s camera beams its view to your screen.

The Wonder Workshop Dash robot is an already-assembled bot, but it allows kids to control it via basic programming. The Lego Mindstorms 51515 Robot Inventor Kit combines open-ended construction options with programming. These are great educational robots for kids. Cafe X’s Gordon is a robot that makes coffee, and it is currently at San Francisco International Airport’s Terminal 3. Robots are also working in warehouses and factories. Earlier in 2014, Amazon started rolling out Kiva robots at its fulfilment centres.

Is It Actually Happening?

Delivery bots, and vacuum bots are robots that already exist, and they are simplifying our lives. Since the pandemic has discouraged human contact, companies deploying robots to do simple tasks, such as delivering food, making coffee, taking orders in restaurants, makes absolute sense. So, this humanoid robot by Tesla makes sense because we might feel safe sending a robot to the grocery store during these times, than going there by ourselves. However, the question that is on everyone’s minds right now is, will Tesla actually launch a humanoid robot?

This question makes sense because Musk has promised several things like this in the past, but they haven’t been launched yet. In October 2016, Musk spoke about a product called the Solar Roof at an event, but the solar roof tiles on display turned out to be merely conceptual. Earlier in April 2019, Musk said that the firm would have 1 million autonomous “robotaxis” on the road in 2020. But it is the eighth month of 2021, and we still don’t see any robotaxis anywhere. Musk’s battery-swapping prototype has also failed to come to fruition.

So, Elon Musk is known for using sci-fi marketing tactics to exaggerate the future of Tesla to its shareholders. This is why the announcement of the Tesla bot makes us question whether it is a distraction from the federal investigation into the Tesla vehicles. An article by James Vincent for Verge, says, “I personally don’t doubt that if Musk wants to he can produce something that looks like a Tesla Bot in 2022. It wouldn’t be hard to make a decent automaton — something on the level of Disney’s more advanced theme park models, for example. Once he’s got it to walk out onstage he can even send it to space, just for the headlines. But if he does, it will be just another distraction. Robotics are having a huge effect on manufacturing, no doubt about that, but there’s no need to pretend that machines need to look human to do so.”

In The End

As we mentioned before, creating a humanoid robot is not that easy. The above-mentioned Boston Dynamics’ humanoid robot, Atlas, has only been described it as a “research platform” by the company. So, Atlas is not one of the firm’s commercial projects. This shows how humanoid robots take years to create, and despite working on it for over a decade, Atlas is not even close to commercial deployment.

However, Musk says that he can create the Tesla bot in a year, making us think how he can pull off something so complicated like a humanoid robot in such a short period of time. But Musk is confident like always, and we need to see whether the Tesla bots will be doing grocery runs for us from next year. On the other hand, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Tesla bots’ idea gets shelved, and Musk comes up with something new like putting chips in the human brain. Wait, he already has plans to do that as well!




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