Tesla CEO Elon Musk personally took the stage at this year’s Investor Day on Wednesday to share the progress of the company’s humanoid robot named Optimus.
However, this ~5-minute-long presentation doesn’t just share the development update of Tesla Optimus — but also consists of Musk’s wild ideas of a world where the robot population exceeds the human count.
According to Elon Musk, humanity can unlock an economy with unlimited potential if home and industrial robots are adopted on a wider scale.
“You should start getting into interesting questions of like what’s the ratio of humans to humanoid robots, I think it might be greater than one-to-one,” said Elon Musk.
“It’s not even clear what an economy means at that point,” Musk extrapolated on the hypothesis of the humanoid robot population exceeding the human population at some point in the future.
“You know since an economy is outer per person x times persons — but if output is much higher and there’s no limit on persons then what’s the actual limit on the economy?” Elon Musk asked.
However, he said that we are still pretty far from the Kardashev scale at this point in time. Musk realizes that it could take a significant amount of time before his idea of a robot-dense world takes the shape of reality.
Tesla Optimus Development Progress
It was Tesla AI Day 2022 when Elon Musk showed the current generation Optimus humanoid robot the world for the first time last year. At the time, Optimus couldn’t even walk on its own legs, a few engineers lifted it and brought it to the stage.
However, there was a Development Version of the Tesla bot that was able to perform a few tasks in addition to walking. But at the Investor Day presentation, Tesla showed a video of multiple Optimus bots working in the company’s robotics lab — let’s watch.
Real-World Artificial Intelligence
Elon Musk admits that these Tesla robots are not doing parkour but they are still able to perform various tasks in the company’s robotics lab. Musk notes that Tesla Optimus has a fair advantage over robots made by other companies today, i.e. real-world AI.
The same artificial intelligence (AI) software and hardware infrastructure that Tesla has developed for its Full Self-Driving (FSD) cars is going to be used for Tesla Optimus humanoid robot. Even the same FSD computer (HW4) installed in the automaker’s latest cars is going to be used as the brain of the Tesla bot.
How does this give Optimus an advantage over other humanoid robots? Tesla’s AI vision gives Optimus the ability to perform tasks with more freedom, unlike other robots which can only do what they are programmed to do. Tesla Optimus robot can actually see the world around it, recognize objects, and take decisions on what to do using AI.
So, Tesla Optimus will not require users to be programmed for each task. It will walk around and perform tasks autonomously based on voice commands and or visual instructions.
“You should be able to instruct it in simple things by showing visually what the robot needs to do, or just telling it what to do,” Elon Musk explained how the Tesla Optimus will be operated. “So, that’s the key advantage that we have,” he added.
Custom-Designed Actuators and Components
When Tesla shared the specs of its Optimus humanoid robot at AI Day last year, Elon Musk said that the actuators used in this robot are custom-designed by Tesla. Musk has once again iterated that the company was not able to find off-the-shelf parts that they could use to develop the Optimus.
So, Tesla custom-designed the actuators (electric motors/joints), the gearbox, the power electronics, the computer, and obviously the battery pack to give life to the Optimus bot (see diagram below).
“We are actually quite surprised to find how little is available off-the-shelf because there’s a lot of a vast number of electric motors, gearboxes, and whatnot available in the world and we found more of them useful in our humanoid robot — literally none,” Elon Musk said during his Tesla Optimus robot presentation.
Musk also revealed that the Tesla robot actuators are designed by the same team that designed the groundbreaking electric motors for the Model S Plaid.
In the long term future, Elon Musk thinks that the business of humanoid robot manufacturing will surpass that of the car business as we know it today.
In his ending remarks of the Tesla Optimus robot presentation, Musk said “It’s probably the least understood or appreciated part of what we’re doing at Tesla but will probably be worth significantly more than the car side of things long term”.
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