Elon Musk will unveil the first prototype of Tesla's humanoid robot, Optimus

Elon Musk will unveil the first prototype of Tesla’s humanoid robot, Optimus

SAN FRANCISCO — Elon Musk wants to solve one of the toughest problems in robotics and artificial intelligence: a machine that can replace a human.

For years, companies such as Amazon and Google have been working to create robots that can move around and, in a deceptive feat, pick up or work on objects with claws or mechanized hands.

This holy grail of technology, which would allow companies to replace human workers with inexhaustible robots, has not been achieved. But Tesla CEO Musk said he could showcase the company’s version, dubbed Optimus, at an AI event hosted by the company on Friday night.

Last year at the same event, Musk announced the robot. He said the cyborg would be friendly and not combative, standing about 5ft 8in tall. It would be designed to help with repetitive, menial tasks – and usher in a future where physical labor is a choice.

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Critically, Musk said, a person could “run away and most likely overpower it.”

The Tesla bot is part of the company’s long-term effort to usher in a new era of automation, in which computer algorithms engage in human decision-making and advance their knowledge independent of human intervention.

As the country grapples with labor shortages that have left a huge percentage of manufacturing jobs unfilled, companies are devising new ways to automate work previously done by humans. Efforts have faced criticism from unions, but have also been accepted where they can improve worker safety and open up new opportunities.

A company cracking the code on humanoid robots would certainly be a revolutionary – if controversial – step forward in the effort.

If it does, Optimus could initially disrupt manufacturing jobs that make up about 10% of the U.S. workforce, or $500 billion in annual wages, Gene Munster, managing partner of Loup Ventures, wrote in an analysis.

“The global market for physical labor is many times larger than that for American manufacturing labor,” he added.

Yet Musk is notorious for overpromising, especially on his timelines. Tesla advertised its Cybertruck pickup with “shatterproof” windows that shattered on stage during their 2019 demonstration.

The truck has still not been delivered. On Thursday, Musk tweeted that it would be “waterproof enough to serve briefly as a boat.”

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Tesla said the robot could rely on the automaker’s Full Self-Driving computer, which helps power its driver assistance system. Complete self-driving offers a set of features that allow the car to maneuver without driver input and is in beta testing in 160,000 vehicles on public roads. Tesla always says drivers need to be careful at all times.

Musk said he fears artificial intelligence could one day outwit humans and put us at risk, citing AI as the biggest threat to civilization. But he said that by building the Tesla robot, the company could ensure it would be safe.

“Obviously we’re making the parts for a useful humanoid robot, so I guess we probably should,” he said last year. “And if we don’t do it, someone else will. …I guess we should do it and make sure it’s safe.

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Around this time, in response to an account claiming to be Optimus, Musk offered some friendly advice.

He tweeted: “Please be nice to humans.”

Little is known about the bot or its capabilities, beyond what Tesla demonstrated during its presentation last year. The company said it could help with repetitive tasks such as working on cars or going to the store.

When he unveiled the concept last year, Tesla sent a human dressed as a cyborg onto the stage to perform robotic gestures followed by more complex dance moves – perhaps simulating the range of motion of a possible Tesla Bot. .

Google researchers are using results from large language models and AI studies to teach simple robots to make decisions and perform more complex tasks. (Video: Jonathan Baran/The Washington Post)

Still, some have expressed doubts that Tesla could build a working — and capable — robot anytime soon. Tesla’s demo didn’t show off its technical capabilities so much as its ambition for the robot.

“This will be a key event for Musk to prove that there is a strategic path on the Optimus front,” Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives wrote in a note to investors ahead of the event.

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Musk, for his part, tried to quell any major excitement over AI Day, tweeting Thursday that it will be “very technical.”

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Tesla’s event on Friday is likely to provide milestone updates on other projects, such as Full Self-Driving, but the splashy invite features heart-shaped robot hands, a sure wink. to the cyborg.

Tesla’s AI Day, Battery Day, and other similar events are usually aimed at recruiting and building excitement for its latest products. Still, Musk said, the presentation might prove enticing to those in the AI/robotics field.

“Engineers who understand what problems need to be solved will like what they see,” he tweeted.

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