There's always a chance Elon Musk is messing with us. The billionaire founder of Tesla and creator of projects like The Boring Company (literally dedicated to boring big holes in the ground for futuristic, high-speed transportation) has a pretty mischievous sense of humor.
So is the "Teslabot" Musk introduced on August 20th with a human actor in a robot suit just an elaborate joke or truly a preview of an actual robot his company will produce by the end of 2022? The Verge says it's a joke.
Here's one take on Teslabot, which Musk introduced as part of a presentation on the company's truly impressive work with artificial intelligence, from Verge's James Vincent:
Even by Musk’s standards, it was a bizarre and brilliant bit of tomfoolery: a multipurpose sideshow that trolled Tesla skeptics, fed the fans, ginned up the share price, and created some eye-catching headlines. The latter being particularly important in a week when most Tesla news has focused on a federal investigation into a tendency of the company’s Autopilot software to crash into parked emergency vehicles. Forget about all that, says Musk, just look at the person in the spandex suit! Next year, it’ll be a real robot, I promise.
If Musk perhaps intended the intro as a diversion, he succeeded. And it seemed clear that Tesla has been putting in the work on at least conceptualizing Teslabot.
Musk announced—you can watch the full three-hour presentation for AI Day in the video above—that the robot (code name "Optimus," no "Prime") will have a lot in common with Tesla's electric vehicles, especially the sensors and hardware involved in giving the EVs self-driving abilities.
At 5'8", Teslabot is just an inch shorter than the average American male and as conceived won't have a face, exactly, but head-shaped screen which will display necessary info.
Perhaps thinking he might ward off jokes about creating Terminators, Musk indicated Teslabot will be engineered with human safety in mind. Humans will be able to flee if threatened or overpower the thing. The intention is for a "friendly" device that will "eliminate dangerous, repetitive and boring tasks."
As part of the presentation Musk ran a slideshow with additional basic info on Teslabot specs:
- Autopilot cameras in the head.
- Teslabot will be able to tote 45 pounds
- It will be able to lift 150 pounds
- Weight: 125 pounds.
- Top running speed of 5 mph
Musk framed the robot's creation as a byproduct of work his company was already doing to aid in manufacturing Tesla vehicles.
Musk went on to say that Teslabot "should be able to, you know, please go to the store and get me the following groceries, that kind of thing."
Elon Musk is savvy about grabbing attention, no doubt about that, and it's interesting to note that his announcement came not long after Boston Dynamics released footage of its Atlas robots doing Parkour with such speed and agility the overall effect was a combination of awe and fear.
The gamble for Musk is that should humanity reach the point where we have human-sized robotic helpers in our homes, will people want something hyper-capable like Atlas or just helpful enough, like Optimus?
The overall conclusion is the future is here and it will soon be passively doing errands or chasing us across rooftops, maybe.
Let's hope humanity's inventiveness doesn't end up being our undoing.