Tesla has revealed a working prototype of its Optimus humanoid robot during its AI Day 2022 event, and it’s certainly not a guy in a robot suit any more. It looks far from agile or stable, but the bot can walk on its own and wave to the crowd, and it certainly shows the progress that has been made over the past year.
The bot that Tesla showed walking on stage is called Bumble C, and according to Elon Musk and his team, it was built with off-the-shelf actuators and components, so it’s not representative of the look of the finished bot. After Bumble C walks off stage, Tesla wheels in an actual Optimus prototype that can’t walk on its own.
This second bot featured Tesla’s own components, like the battery, actuators and electronics, and even though it didn’t have complete functionality, it showed what the finished version was going to look like, as well as some of its functionality. Apparently, they have almost finished the process of getting it to walk - that’s just weeks away according to Musk.
Gallery: Tesla Humanoid Robot Prototype AI Day 2022
Crowd reactions were much more restrained when the second bot was brought on stage, compared to the parts bin bot that was able to walk on its own, even though Tesla clearly made the first bot just to show that it could. Had it only shown the non-walking Optimus prototype, the overall reaction would have been less positive.
Musk also talked about the eventual cost per each Optimus unit, which he estimated would be $20,000 (approx. £18,000). It will be powered by a 2.3 kWh battery pack, 28 structural actuators, it will run at 52 volts and feature some of the hardware that Tesla also uses to get its electric cars to drive semi-autonomously. The Tesla founder didn’t say when the company would begin production, but he did say in the past that this project has taken priority over the launch of new car models, so it could be fairly soon.
Apparently, it could be as early as next year, although Tesla hasn’t officially committed to that time frame yet. According to Musk, though, this bipedal bot has the potential to bring radical societal transformation around the world and even ending global poverty through its use in various industries, say, in places where there’s a shortage of workers.
It is worth noting that other companies with more experience in the field of robotics already have much more advanced bipedal robots. Boston Dynamics has humanoid bots that can run, perform jumps and even some light acrobatics, although it's worth noting that Tesla is developing its bots in-house, and it is learning along the way.