Elon Musk Reveals Tesla’s Humanoid Robot Optimus

Musk’s robot prototype–designed for mass production–was mocked by Twitter critics who compared it to Boston Dynamics’ robots.

(YouTube/The Verge)

Elon Musk made good on his promise to deliver a functioning prototype of Tesla’s “Optimus” humanoid robot at Tesla AI Day 2022.

The billionaire tech mogul had pushed back the event from August 19 to September 30 to give his EV company more time to prepare an “interesting prototype to show people.

Optimus sauntered across the stage before waving, pivoting and fist-pumping to the tune of a techno synth for the crowd, showcasing what Tesla has been able to accomplish over eight months by retooling the same AI tech used in its EVs. According to CNET, the model used off-the-shelf mechanical actuators, cylindrical devices mated to motors and gears, and sensors.

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

A second Optimus variant was then wheeled out, with limbs and fingers controlled by Tesla’s own actuators, which allowed it to lift its leg and grip its hand but not walk.

“It wasn’t quite ready to walk, but I think it’ll walk in a few weeks,” Musk said of the second Optimus robot.

Though neither were impressive as Boston Dynamics’ agile Atlas robot–and even faced some mocking comparisons on Twitter–additional video showing a tethered Optimus lifting a box and watering office plants was also presented.

Musk plans to eventually produce millions of Tesla robots using the hardware, software, manufacturing and supply chain infrastructure utilized by his EV business. He said that there will be external safety and override mechanisms so Optimus can be shut off manually and prevented from updating over the internet.

Today’s AI-powered robots, like wheeled delivery bots or a Roomba vacuum cleaner, perform very specific tasks. But Musk envisions bigger plans for Optimus and Tesla’s AI tech working first in Tesla’s car factories before helping “millions” of people.

“Our goal is to make a useful humanoid robot as quickly as possible,” Musk said. “The number of situations where Optimus is useful will grow exponentially. Really, really fast.”

Musk also promised robots of the future will be “governed by some laws of robotics that you cannot overcome, like not doing harm to others,” referencing the three laws of robotics from science fiction author Isaac Asimov’s 1942 short story Runaround.

Consumer versions of Optimus could cost $20,000 and enter production within three to five years. And the promises only grew more ambitious from there, as Musk linked the wide adoption of robots to a new economic age, a “future of abundance, a future where there is no poverty, a future where you can have whatever you want in terms of products and services.”

“It really is a fundamental transformation of civilization as we know it,” Musk said.

In other Musk news, the mogul has apparently agreed to move forward with his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter, Bloomberg reported on October 4, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

Musk confidentially filed a letter seeking to proceed with the deal with Delaware Chancery Court just days before Musk was expected to be deposed as part of Twitter’s lawsuit seeking to force the Tesla CEO to buy the company.

The Tesla CEO initially agreed to buy Twitter in April for $54.20 per share, which works out to $44 billion, reports Yahoo! Finance. He then said he was pulling out of the deal, claiming that Twitter wasn’t providing enough information about the number of fake accounts bots it had on the platform.

Twitter struck back against Musk in July, filing a lawsuit in Delaware Chancery Court with the hopes that Musk would be forced to buy the company. Shares of Twitter surged on the news, rising more than 12.7% before being halted for volatility.