Elon Musk Finally Debuts ‘Optimus’ Humanoid Robot — But Will He Deliver?

A year and a month after Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) comically brought out a ‘mockup’ of the Tesla Bot (i.e. a slender dude inside a black and white leotard), the electric vehicle maker has finally unveiled a working prototype of the humanoid robot, Optimus, at the 2022 AI Day on Friday. And it works! Well, kind of.

When Tesla CEO Elon Musk first debuted the concept for the Tesla Bot at last year’s AI Day, he made wild claims — as he’s known to do — about the robot’s intended capabilities. He said that Tesla’s cars are basically “semi-sentient robots on wheels” with the “full self-driving computer,” saying that it made sense to go from there to a humanoid form.

Apart from other vague features (“friendly”), Musk said that would operate on AI that’s similar to Tesla’s (now still problematic) Autopilot system, and be able to do work around humans without needing extensive training. Musk said that the Tesla Bot would be capable of understanding complex verbal commands, it would have “human-level hands,” and a prototype would be available “sometime next year.”

13 months later, the company brings out not one but two Tesla Bot prototypes. The first of it, called Bumble C, walked out of the stage and danced, without its casings or exterior paneling so you can actually see the actuators at work. It’s the first time this prototype is walking untethered, they said. They showed a video of the Tesla Bot doing basic tasks like carrying a box and lowering it, watering plants, and lifting metal bars at Tesla’s California plant.

And then the team rolled out a version that Musk said was closer to the one going into production, ‘Optimus.’ This one “wasn’t quite ready to walk. But I think it will walk in a few weeks,” Musk said. The company’s chief also said that existing humanoid robots were “missing a brain,” but Optimus would be an “extremely capable robot.”

Musk’s biggest pronouncement at the event was that he expects Optimus would cost less than $20,000 if it goes into mass 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 a high volume at low cost with higher reliability.”

The problem with Tesla is that while the Tesla Bot sure has come a long way since the concept was first introduced 13 months ago, there’s still no guarantee if they’ll actually be able to deliver. The Tesla Bot demo was concluded with Milan Kovac, director of Autopilot software engineering, saying that the company is “starting out having something that’s usable, but it’s far from being useful. It’s still a long and exciting road ahead of us.”

“After seeing what we’ve shown tonight,” Kovac said. “I’m pretty sure we can get this done within the next few months or years and maybe make this product a reality and change the entire economy.”

The biggest change may be that there was no promised date, only a loose “within the next few weeks or years.”

Will it be another Cybertruck, which has yet to go into production? Another Robotaxi, which the world should’ve already seen 1 million of two years ago and not by the new target year 2024 as announced on Friday?

As Steve put it a year ago: when it comes to Tesla, it’s all about capital market strategy. 

The question now may be is if the market is still (literally and figuratively) buying Musk’s wild claims. (Oh and remember Twitter?)

Tesla last traded at $247.06 on the Nasdaq.

Information for this briefing was found via Tesla, Twitter, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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