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Tesla debuts an actual, mechanical prototype of its Optimus robot | Engadget

It seems like just yesterday that Elon Musk ushered a gig worker in a spandex suit onto the Tesla AI Day 2021 stage and told us it was an robot — or at least probably would be one eventually. In the intervening 13 months, the company has apparently been hard at work, replacing the squishy bits from what crowd saw on stage with proper electronics and mechanizations. At this year’s AI Day on Friday, Tesla unveiled the next iteration of its Optimus robotics platform and, well, at least there isn’t still a person on the inside? 


Tesla CEO Elon Musk debuted the “first” Optimus (again, skinny guy in a leotard, not an actual machine) in August of last year and, true to his nature, and proceeded to set out a series of increasingly incredible claims about the platform’s future capabilities — just like how the Cybertruck will have unbreakable windows. As Musk explained at the time, the Optimus will operate an AI similar to the company’s Autopilot system (the one that keeps chasing stationary ambulances) and be capable of working safely around humans without extensive prior training. 

Additionally, the Tesla Bot would understand complex verbal commands, Musk assured the assembled crowd, it would have “human-level hands,” be able to both move at 5 MPH and carry up to 45 pounds despite standing under 6-feet tall and weighing 125 pounds. And, most incredibly, Tesla would have a working prototype for all of that by 2022, which brings us to today.

production tesla bot


Kicking off the event, CEO Elon Musk was quickly joined on stage by an early development platform prototype of the robot — the very first time one of the test units had walked unassisted by an umbilical tether. Lacking any exterior panelling to reveal the Tesla-designed actuators inside, the robot moved at a halting and ponderous pace, not unlike early Asimos and certainly a far cry from the deft acrobatics that Boston Robotics Atlas exhibits. “We had that within six months, built, working on software integration hardware and upgrades, over the months spent inspecting and working. 

The Tesla team also rolled out a further developed, but still tethered iteration as well, pictured above. “it wasn’t quite ready to walk,” Musk said, “but I think we’ll walk in a few weeks. We wanted to show you the robot that’s actually really close to what is going to production.” 

“Our goal is to make a useful humanoid robot as quickly as possible,” Musk said. “And we’ve also designed it using the same discipline that we use in designing the car, which is to say… to make the robot at an high volume at low cost with higher reliability.” He estimates that they could cost under $20,000 when built at volume. 

The Optimus will be equipped with a 2.3 kWh battery pack which integrates the various power control systems into a single PCB. That should be sufficient to get the robot through a full day of work, per Tesla’s engineering team which joined Musk on stage during the event. 

“Humans are also pretty efficient at somethings but not so efficient at other times,” a member of the engineering team explained. While humans can sustain themselves on small amounts of food, we cannot halt our metabolisms when not working. “On the robot platform, what we’re going to do is we’re going to minimize that. Idle power consumption, drop it as low as possible,” a member of the engineering team explained. The team also plans to strip as much complexity and mass as possible from the robot’s arms and legs. “We’re going to reduce our part count and our power consumption of every element possible. We’re going to do things like reduce the sensing and the wiring at our extremities,” the engineering team said.


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