Elon Musk will unveil human-sized ‘butler robot’ Optimus in 10 days – and says it’s ‘cheaper than a car’

TESLA advances its plans to build an army of humanoid robots.

Corresponding ReutersElon Musk’s company plans to deploy thousands of androids, known as the Tesla Bot or Optimus, in its factories.

Tesla announced last year that it would develop a humanoid robot

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Tesla announced last year that it would develop a humanoid robotCredit: Tesla

According to job postings, that number will eventually grow to millions around the world.

Tesla will host an event on September 30 about its work in AI, where more details about Optimus will be revealed.

Buzz is building inside the Texas company as Tesla holds more internal meetings on robots, a person familiar with the matter said.

In the long term, Musk said at a TED Talk, robots could be used in homes to cook dinner, mow the lawn, and care for the elderly.

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The quirky billionaire, who has nine children with three wives, even said the bots could become “buddy” or “catgirl” sex partners.

Musk says the robot business could ultimately be worth more than Tesla’s car earnings.

He has previously said that a Tesla robot could eventually become cheaper than a car.

Musk is now touting a vision for the company that goes far beyond making self-driving electric vehicles.

At his September 30 AI Day, Musk said Tesla would unveil a prototype of its Project Optimus.

The name is a nod to the powerful and benevolent leader of the Autobots in the Transformers series.

Production could begin next year, Musk said.

According to robotics experts, investors and analysts polled by Reuters, Tesla is skeptical that it can boast technological advances that would justify the cost of “general purpose” robots in factories, homes and elsewhere.

Tesla already employs hundreds of robots designed for specific tasks in the production of its cars.

Humanoid robots have been developed by Honda and Hyundai’s Boston Dynamics unit for decades.

Like self-driving cars, the robots have problems with unpredictable situations.

“Self-driving cars haven’t really turned out to be as easy as anyone thought. And it’s the same with humanoid robots to some extent,” NASA’s Dexterous Robotics team leader Shaun Azimi told Reuters.

The androids are said to work in Tesla's factories

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The androids are said to work in Tesla’s factoriesCredit: Tesla

“When something unexpected happens, it’s very difficult to be flexible and resilient to such changes.”

At a 2019 Autonomy event, Musk pledged 1 million robotic taxis by 2020, but has yet to deliver such a car.

Musk’s robots could potentially demonstrate basic skills at the event, but it would be difficult for them to impress public expectations of robots as capable as humans, experts say.

To be successful, Tesla needs to show robots that perform multiple, unscripted actions, said Nancy Cooke, a professor of human systems engineering at Arizona State University.

Such evidence could give a boost to Tesla stock, which is down 25 percent from its 2021 peak.

“If he just makes the robot walk around or he makes the robots dance, that’s already done. It’s not that impressive,” she said.

Tesla didn’t respond to Reuters’ request for comment, but Musk has a history of proving skeptics wrong by boosting the electric car market and building a rocket company, SpaceX, despite some product launches falling behind schedule.

IN-HOUSE COMPETENCE

According to Musk, Optimus will initially do boring or dangerous jobs, including moving parts around his factories.

Musk acknowledged that humanoid robots don’t have enough intelligence to navigate the real world without explicit instruction.

But he said Tesla can use its expertise in AI and key components to design and produce intelligent but lower-cost humanoid robots at scale.

The electric car maker will reveal new details about the project later this month at an event dedicated to its work in the field of artificial intelligence

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The electric car maker will reveal new details about the project later this month at an event dedicated to its work in the field of artificial intelligenceCredit: Tesla

Tesla is looking for people to work on humanoid biped robots with about 20 job postings on Tesla Bot, including jobs to develop important robot parts like “actuators”.

“The code you will write will run in millions of humanoid robots around the world during the semester and will therefore meet high quality standards,” says one of the job postings.

Tesla has over 2 million vehicles on the road.

Jonathan Hurst, chief technology officer at Agility Robotics, a humanoid robot company founded in 2015, said the technology is “just starting to make the turn.”

“Certainly an important measure of success is whether they’re making money from it,” he told Reuters, referring to Tesla’s humanoid robot efforts.

HUMAN HELP?

Analysts see more pomp than product. “It’s all part of distracting people and giving them the next shiny object to chase,” said Sam Abuelsamid, analyst at Guidehouse Insights.

“Investors aren’t excited about Optimus,” said Gene Munster, a managing partner at venture capital firm Loup Ventures, which owns Tesla stock. “It’s just such a slim chance that it will work on a large scale,” he said, saying it’s “infinitely more difficult than self-driving cars.”

And then there’s Musk’s own experience with robots in the factory.

During Production Hell in 2018, Musk specifically pointed out the problems of the “Fluff-Bot,” an assembly robot that couldn’t perform simple tasks that human hands can do — pick up pieces of “Fluff” and place them on batteries.

He said the cost of having technicians maintain the complicated robot far exceeded the cost of hiring someone to assemble it.

Tesla was founded by Elon Musk in 2003

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Tesla was founded by Elon Musk in 2003Photo credit: Reuters
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The Fluff-Bot is “a fun example, but makes it clear that autonomy often doesn’t generalize well, and so dealing with soft, fluffy material that isn’t as predictable as a rigid part created a big problem,” says Aaron Johnson, a mechanical engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University, said.

“Human hands are much better at this,” Musk said.

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https://www.thesun.ie/tech/9439112/elon-musk-optimus-butler-robot-cheaper-car/ Elon Musk will unveil human-sized ‘butler robot’ Optimus in 10 days – and says it’s ‘cheaper than a car’

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