Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the company’s Tesla Bot on Friday, a robot codenamed Optimus that glides across a stage, waves, pumps its arms in a kind of slow dance and could go on sale by 2027.
“Our goal is to make a useful humanoid robot as quickly as possible,” Musk said, predicting that sales would begin “probably in three years and no more than five years.”
The robot wasn’t as flashy as some others, like Boston Dynamics’ Atlas, but that’s what Tesla put together in less than 8 months. “The robot can do a lot more than what we showed you. We just didn’t want it to fall on its face,” quipped Muskevent designed to showcase the company’s robot and autonomous vehicle technology, called .
Ultimately, Musk wants to build millions of Tesla bots and sell them for $20,000 apiece. However, take these predictions with a grain of salt. Tesla has succeeded as an automaker leading the rest of the industry toward the future of electric vehicles, but it has missed many deadlines along the way.
Optimus’ efforts, while still early, are among the most ambitious in the world of robotics, given how widespread and capable Tesla hopes robots will become. But progress is hard. Rivals likehave been working on humanoid robots for years, but have only produced prototypes so far. More common are robots with more limited abilities, such as or a household tablet on wheels equipped with a camera.
AI technology works best with narrow occupations, but Tesla’s self-driving car technology and robots have to accommodate a huge variety in the real world. Optimus will likely lead a sheltered life to begin with. The company plans to use it first in.
The work could involve bringing parts for conventional robots onto the production line, Musk said.
“The number of situations where Optimus is useful will grow exponentially,” Musk said. “Very fast indeed.”
Two Tesla Bots on stage
Musk showed off two robots. The first, a walking model, was built with off-the-shelf mechanical actuators. The second, whose limbs and fingers were controlled by Tesla’s own actuators, could not walk, but could grasp itself with its hands. In a video, bots can do more, including lifting boxes and spinning on their waists.
“He wasn’t quite ready to walk, but I think he’ll be walking in a couple of weeks,” Musk said of the second Optimus robot.
The second Optimus prototype weighed 161 pounds (73 kg). It uses a variant of the same computing hardware that powers Tesla’s autonomous vehicle technology, called FSD. Its battery has a capacity of 2.3 kilowatt hours, “ideal for a full day’s work,” said one engineer. It consumes about 100 watts of energy when sitting and 500 watts when walking fast. It’s kind of like a high-end gaming PC.
The first robot walked at a slow, shuffling pace, with one foot placed directly in front of the other. His bent knees gave him a somewhat clumsy gait. He could twist and bend at the waist. His body was covered in mostly green LEDs and his chest included a large computer with twin spinning fans to cool the processors.
Tesla engineers emphasized the degrees of freedom in the Optimus robots — essentially the different ways it can bend or twist at different joints. The robot’s entire body has more than 28 degrees of freedom, and each arm has 11, Tesla said.
Tesla uses the same AI software to control the Tesla Bot as it uses in its cars. Some of the same technology is applied, such as measuring the “occupancy” of nearby areas. It simply trains with real environments instead of driving video, Tesla said.
Musk doesn’t hold back on sci-fi promises for his robots. With robots at work, the economy is entering a new era, “a future of abundance, a future where there is no poverty, a future where you can have whatever you want in terms of products and services,” Musk said. “This is truly a fundamental transformation of civilization as we know it.”