Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveils prototype of humanoid Optimus robot

Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed a prototype of a humanoid robot that he said utilizes the company’s AI software, as well as the sensors that power its advanced driver assist features. At the start of Tesla’s 2022 AI Day presentation, Musk acknowledged that last year they had “a guy in a suit,” but promised something much more impressive today.

The robot was showcased at Tesla’s AI Day, and reps said it features the same technology used to enable the Full Self-Driving beta in Tesla’s cars. According to Musk, it can do more than what has been shown, but “the first time it walked without a tether was tonight on stage.” Musk said they’re targeting a price of “probably less than $20,000.”

The back doors of the stage open to reveal a deconstructed Optimus that walked forward and did a “raise the roof” dance move. Musk would admit after the motion that they wanted to keep it safe and not make too many moves on stage and have it “fall flat on its face.”

Afterward, the company showed a few video clips of the robot doing other tasks like picking up boxes. Then Tesla’s team brought out another prototype that has its body fully assembled but not fully functional.

Musk first announced the “Tesla Bot” at last year’s AI Day, promising that it would be “friendly” and potentially revolutionize the company’s assembly line and manufacturing business.

Tesla “Optimus” robot at AI Day 2022
Image: Tesla

Musk had previously warned his fans not to expect the prototype to look like the glossy black-and-white rendering first shown at last year’s event. But there’s been no shortage of hype, with Musk calling the robot as “the most important product development we’re doing this year” and predicting that it will have the potential to be “more significant than the vehicle business over time.”

Future applications could include cooking, gardening, or even “catgirl” sex partners, Musk has said, while also claiming that production could start as soon as next year. 

In the days leading up to AI Day, robotics experts were warning against buying too much into Musk’s claims. They’ve noted that other companies are much further along in their development of robots that can walk, run, and even jump — but none are claiming to be close to replacing human labor.

Tesla’s history is littered with fanciful ideas that never panned out — like a solar-powered Supercharger network, battery swapping, or robotic snake-style chargers — so it’s anyone’s guess as to whether a production-ready Tesla Bot will ever see the light of day. But the company is where it is today because of Musk’s sheer will. And the reveal of a prototype version of the robot is sure to bolster Musk’s claims of Tesla as “the world’s biggest robotics company.”

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