Tesla Optimus: Can Elon Musk actually ship a humanoid robotic in 2022?

The automobile firm’s experience in AI may assist it design a working prototype, however delivering a dependable product on schedule shall be difficult


30 December 2021

New Scientist Default Image

A picture of the Optimus robotic launched by Tesla


In August 2021, Elon Musk introduced that Tesla would construct a humanoid robotic designed to “remove harmful, repetitive, boring duties” and reply to voice instructions, promising to indicate off a prototype in 2022. Can the corporate ship on Musk’s aim?

Tesla has achieved a fantastic deal since Musk based the electrical automobile agency in 2003: constructing a valuation of $1 trillion, promoting in extra of half one million vehicles and putting in a world community of greater than 2000 charging stations for them. However there have additionally been failures and delays.

Musk promised to have one million self-driving taxis on the highway by 2020. He has lengthy touted the upcoming arrival of full autonomy for his vehicles; scheduled a Tesla lorry for manufacturing in 2020 and a Cybertruck quickly after in 2021. All of these deadlines have been or are on account of be missed. Musk himself has admitted that he lacks punctuality however insists that the majority of his predictions come to cross finally.

The robotic, known as Optimus inside the corporate, shall be 173 centimetres tall and weigh 57 kilograms, and will probably be in a position to carry a cargo of as much as 20 kilograms, in response to Musk’s presentation in August.

He mentioned a lot of the know-how in Tesla’s self-driving vehicles is relevant to humanoid robots and will give them a head begin. “Tesla is arguably the world’s largest robotics firm as a result of our vehicles are like semi-sentient robots on wheels,” he mentioned. “It form of is sensible to place that onto a humanoid kind.”

Tetsuya Ogata at Waseda College in Tokyo, Japan, believes that engineering of the robotic have to be progressing effectively, or the corporate wouldn’t make such daring claims. However he expects that it’ll not solely run into AI issues, the place Tesla definitely has plenty of expertise, however {hardware} issues, the place it doesn’t, as a result of humanoid robots are far more complicated than vehicles.

“It’s very tough to develop robotic palms that may carry out the identical duties as a human,” he says. “Learn how to reproduce senses that permit tactile suggestions can also be an enormous downside.”

Zhongyu Li on the College of California, Berkeley, says he admires the imaginative and prescient, however thinks the deadline is “very bold”. He expects Tesla to hit its goal of demonstrating a prototype of some variety, however maybe encounter issues bringing it to market.

“Getting a prototype to stroll for some quick demos will not be that difficult for his or her intelligent engineers, however getting humanoid robots to reliably function in day by day life is one other story. It wants dependable {hardware}, a strong management algorithm that may forestall the robotic falling, get well from a fall, and detect and keep away from obstacles, and these could take years,” he says.

Others imagine that the know-how is feasible, however not within the slender kind that Musk guarantees. Florian Richter on the College of California, San Diego, factors to the Atlas robotic from Boston Dynamics which may run, soar and carry out a spread of duties, however which additionally has a cumbersome physique and a big backpack-style battery pack.

“They’ve plenty of work to do. I feel their aim of a {hardware} prototype inside a yr is completely possible, however with in all probability half of their desired energy and a few form of weight compromise,” says Richter. “Additionally they ought to be capable to get it strolling round on flat surfaces fairly rapidly, however different human-level duties like greedy will take just a few years of analysis and plenty of innovation.”

Neither Tesla nor Elon Musk responded to a request for interview.

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