Tesla on Friday revealed a prototype of a humanoid robot it said could be a future product from the automaker.
The robot, which Tesla calls Optimus Prime, walked stiffly across the stage at Tesla’s AI Day, slowly waving to the crowd and gesturing with his hands for about a minute. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the robot was operating without a tether for the first time. Robot developers often use tethers to support robots because their walking ability is insufficient to walk without falling and injuring themselves.
Optimus’ capabilities appear to lag far behind rival robots such as Hyundai’s Boston Dynamics. Boston Dynamics robots have been seen performing backflips and complex dance moves without a tether.
“Robots can actually do a lot more than we just showed you,” Musk said at the event. “We just didn’t want it to fall in its face.”
Tesla also showed videos of its robots performing simple tasks, such as carrying boxes and watering plants with a watering can.
Musk claims that if the robot is mass-produced, it “may” cost less than $20,000.Tesla maintains Optimus Prime’s edge What will outpace the competition will be its ability to navigate independently using technology developed by Tesla’s driver-assistance system “Full Self-Driving,” as well as cost savings from its automotive division’s manufacturing know-how. (Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” requires an alert and attentive person, ready to take over, because it’s not yet fully self-driving.)
Tesla has had aggressive price targets, but ultimately failed to reach them. The Tesla Model 3 has long promised a price of $35,000, but can only buy it at that price very briefly, not directly on its website. The most affordable Tesla Model 3 now costs $46,990. When Tesla released the Cybertruck in 2019, its pickup truck was still unavailable and was said to cost $39,990, but that price has since been removed from Tesla’s website.
The main purpose of Tesla AI Day is to attract talent to the company’s recruiting activities.
Musk claims this robot could change civilization. The robot shown on Friday, despite its limitations compared to its rivals, is clearly ahead of the one Tesla showed a year ago, when a man jumped on stage in a robotic suit and danced around.
“Last year was just a guy in a robot suit,” Musk said before the robot took to the stage. “We’ve come a long way. It’s going to be very impressive compared to that.”
Tesla isn’t the first automaker to develop a humanoid robot. Along with Hyundai’s Boston Dynamics, Honda has been working on the robot known as “Asimo” for nearly 20 years. In its final form, Asimo is a child-sized humanoid robot capable of walking, running, climbing and descending stairs untethered, and manipulating objects with its fingers.