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Tesla just gave us a fresh glimpse of its humanoid robot ahead of its big AI Day event. What we know so far about the Optimus project.

Tesla Optimus
Courtesy of Tesla
  • Tesla showed off a teaser of its future humanoid robot on Friday. 
  • The company is hosting an AI Day event, where it will unveil a prototype of the robot. 
  • The Tesla Bot, also named Optimus, will take over dangerous and repetitive manual labor from humans. 

Tesla is expected to unveil a prototype of its long-awaited humanoid robot on Friday night, and investors are surely hoping it will be more than the flailing dancer in a robot suit we saw last summer. 

The company is hosting an AI Day event where it’ll provide updates on all sorts of advanced tech, including the Optimus robot (named after the Transformer). In teasing the event, Tesla tweeted out a video of robot hands moving into the shape of a heart. It’s the most detailed depiction of the Tesla Bot yet.

Many specifics about Optimus remain a mystery, but Musk has laid out some details about the robot’s design, capabilities, and importance to Tesla’s business. 

It’s designed for manual labor

When announcing the Tesla Bot at the last AI Day, Musk said the robot will take over dangerous, boring, and repetitive tasks from humans. In the future, “physical work will be a choice,” Musk said. 

The bot will be 5-foot-8, weigh 125 pounds, and walk 5 mph. A face-mounted screen will display “useful information,” and its “human-level hands” will be able to deadlift 150 pounds, Tesla said. One of the first applications for Tesla Bots will be in the company’s car factories. 

It will be ‘friendly’ and definitely not dystopian

Musk insists that the Tesla Bot will be smart and strong, but not smart or strong enough rise up against its human overlords. “You can run away from it and most likely overpower it,” Musk said at AI Day 2021. “Hopefully that doesn’t happen, but you never know,” 

During an interview in April, Musk said Tesla will include safety features that ensure “this doesn’t become a dystopian situation.”

It will use Tesla’s automated driving tech

Given that Tesla is already developing neural networks and hardware for self-driving technology, it “kind of makes sense to put that onto a humanoid form,” Musk said.

Optimus will “see” the environment around it using Autopilot cameras in its head and “think” using the computer found in Tesla’s cars. 

Musk sees it as Tesla’s most important work

Musk has touted the robot project as “the most important product development we’re doing this year.” He’s also predicted that it could eclipse Tesla’s car business and change the nature of the US economy. 

“What is the economy? It is, at the foundation it is labor. So what happens when there is no shortage of labor?,” he said at the last AI Day. 

Consumers will be able to buy one someday

In April, Musk predicted the Tesla Bot will be available to consumers in less than 10 years. It will be able to do household tasks like tidy up, make dinner, mow the lawn, shop for groceries, and take care of elderly family members, Musk said. By the time it’s widely available, it will cost “less than a car,” according to Musk. 

A grain of salt

Musk is adding the Tesla bot to a plate already piled high with projects that haven’t seen the light of day.

There’s the new Roadster, a $200,000 sports car that was supposed to launch in 2020 with acceleration-boosting rocket thrusters. Then there’s the Cybertruck, a pickup truck that wowed onlookers with its stainless-steel body and doorstop shape when it debuted in 2019 but also hasn’t materialized. For years, Musk has vowed that Teslas would soon be able to drive themselves. 

Against this backdrop, it’s difficult to know when to take Musk’s pronouncements and timelines seriously. We’ll all learn more about his robotic ambitions soon enough.

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