During a Tesla event Friday called “AI Day,” with AI being short for artificial intelligence, Tesla CEO Elon Musk showed off a humanoid robot that, besides being amazing, is expected to cost consumers only $20,000/pop once it’s officially released.
Known as Optimus, the robot could be seen at Tesla’s “AI Day” event flexing its fingers, waving at the crowd, walking, and even slightly dancing — all on its own.
“Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that the robot was operating without a tether for the first time. Robotics developers often use tethers to support robots because they aren’t capable enough to walk without falling and damaging themselves,” CNN notes.
JUST IN: Tesla, $TSLA officially unveils AI bot ‘Optimus’
— Watcher.Guru (@WatcherGuru) October 1, 2022
It took just a year for Musk to achieve such ginormous success.
“Mr. Musk first laid out the vision for the robot, called Optimus, a little more than a year ago at Tesla’s first-ever AI day. At the time, a dancer in a costume appeared onstage,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
What you saw in the clip above was the first official Optimus prototype.
“Our goal is to make a useful humanoid robot as quickly as possible,” Musk said at the event, which was held at Tesla’s Palo Alto, California office.
The problem with the current iteration of humanoid robots on the market is that they are “missing a brain” and thus lack the intelligence to survive the world on their own. Plus, they’re extremely expensive and only produced in low volume.
Conversely, Musk is hoping to make Optimus an “extremely capable robot” that’s sold in high volume and for an extraordinarily low price.
“It is expected to cost much less than a car,” Musk explained.
Elon Musk shows off Tesla’s Optimus robot at company’s ‘AI Day’ pic.twitter.com/r1RLdvkNiX
— Midas Media (@midas__media) October 1, 2022
“Tesla maintains that Optimus’ advantage over competitors will be its ability to navigate independently using technology developed from Tesla’s driver-assistance system ‘Full Self Driving,’ as well as cost savings from what it has learned about manufacturing from its automotive division,” according to CNN.
During Friday’s event, Musk’s team also “brought out another prototype showing a ‘very close to production’ version of Optimus with its body fully assembled but not fully functional — it was held up on a stand and waved to the audience, showing the range of motion of its wrist and hand,” according to The Verge.
“Musk claimed this unit (that was walked out and eventually rolled off by a team of workers) still contains actuators, battery pack, and everything else but ‘wasn’t quite ready to walk,'” The Verge reported.
The potential impact of all this is remarkable.
Like Musk said at the event, “It really is a fundamental transformation of civilization as we know it.”
And indeed, according to the billionaire entrepreneur, what the public saw on Friday — including Optimus’ opposable thumbs — was just a small peak of what it can do.
“The robot can do a lot more than we showed you, we just didn’t want it to fall on its face,” he said.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 1, 2022
That said, Optimus isn’t perfect and still needs a lot of work.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done to refine Optimus and improve it. That’s why we’re hosting this event—to convince some of the most talented people to join Tesla and bring it to reality and help millions of people. The potential boggles the mind,” Musk said.
The billionaire investor is reportedly hoping to have Optimus out on the market within three to five years tops, meaning Americans may have the option of buying one before the decade’s up.
However, there may be some drawbacks to intelligent robots taking over the market.
“When he first unveiled the Optimus concept, Mr. Musk said such a robot could have such an impact on the labor market it could make it necessary to provide a universal basic income, or a stipend to people without strings attached,” the Journal notes.
In fact, robots at their current level are already affecting the job market..
“Up and down the West Coast, there’s a fight to keep high-paying union jobs from going to robots. On one side, 22,000 dockworkers who play a critical role in the global supply chain, moving cargo off of ships onto trucks and trains – on the other, the shipping companies that say they need to automate more of that work in order to stay competitive,” NPR reported just last month.
California dockworkers are worried about losing their good-paying jobs to robots https://t.co/6DOK2Lbv2N
— NPR Business (@nprbusiness) September 8, 2022
The economic threat posed by robots is particularly acute right now given market conditions.
“[W]ith restaurants facing a protracted labor shortage and robotic technology becoming both better and cheaper — restaurant brands are doing new math. How long before an initial technology investment pays off? How long will it take to train human employees to work alongside robot co-workers? And, ultimately, how many restaurant jobs will be permanently commandeered by robots?” The Washington Post notes.
And that, of course, is the most troubling question of all …
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