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Elon Musk faces skeptics as Tesla to unveil Optimus robot


Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk blamed overreliance on factory robots for sending the electrical carmaker to “production hell” 4 years ago, saying humans were higher at certain jobs.

My, how times have modified.

Musk’s Texas company now could be floating ambitious plans to deploy 1000’s of humanoid robots, often known as Tesla Bot or Optimus, inside its factories, expanding eventually to thousands and thousands all over the world, in response to job postings. Buzz is constructing throughout the company as Tesla is having more internal meetings on robots, an individual accustomed to the matter said.

Nonetheless, Tesla faces skepticism that it may possibly show technological advances that might justify the expense of “general purpose” robots in factories, homes and elsewhere, in response to robotics experts, investors and analysts interviewed by Reuters.

To succeed, Tesla will need to point out robots doing multiple, unscripted actions, said Nancy Cooke, a professor in human systems engineering at Arizona State University. Such proof could provide a lift to Tesla stock, which is down 25% from its 2021 peak.

“If he just gets the robot to walk around, or he gets the robots to bounce, that’s already been done. That’s not that spectacular,” she said.

Long term, Elon Musk predicts robots may very well be utilized in homes, making dinner, mowing the lawn and caring for the elderly people.via REUTERS

At its “AI Day” on Sept. 30, Musk said Tesla will unveil a prototype from its project Optimus, an allusion to the powerful and benevolent leader of the Autobots within the Transformers series. Production could start next yr, he said.

Long term, Musk said at a TED Talk robots may very well be utilized in homes, making dinner, mowing the lawn and caring for the elderly people, and even becoming a “buddy” or a “catgirl” sex partner.

The robot business eventually could also be price greater than Tesla’s automotive revenue, in response to Musk, who’s now touting a vision for the corporate that goes well beyond making self-driving electric vehicles.

Tesla already employs a whole bunch of robots designed for specific jobs for production of its cars.

Humanoid robots have been in development for a long time by Honda Motor and Hyundai Motor’s Boston Dynamics unit. Like self-driving cars, the robots have trouble with unpredictable situations. 

“Self-driving cars weren’t really proved to be as easy as anyone thought. And it’s the identical way with humanoid robots to some extent,” the lead of NASA’s Dexterous Robotics Team, Shaun Azimi, told Reuters.

“If something unexpected happens, being flexible and robust to those sorts of changes may be very difficult.”

At an “Autonomy” event in 2019, Musk promised 1 million robotaxis by 2020 but has yet to deliver such a automotive.

Musk’s robots may find a way to show basic capabilities on the event, but it surely could be hard for them to impress public expectations of robots which can be as capable as humans, experts say.

Tesla didn’t reply to Reuters’ request for comments, but Musk up to now proved skeptics incorrect, jump-starting the electrical automotive market and constructing a rocket company, SpaceX, although some product launches were behind schedule.

Elon MuskThe robot business eventually could also be price greater than Tesla’s automotive revenue, in response to Musk.AFP via Getty Images

In-house expertise

Initially, Optimus will perform boring or dangerous jobs, including moving parts around its factories, in response to Musk.

Musk acknowledged that humanoid robots don’t have enough intelligence to navigate the true world without being explicitly instructed.

But he said Tesla can leverage its expertise in AI and key components to develop and produce smart, yet cheaper, humanoid robots at scale.

He tweeted on Monday that its Autopilot team can be working on its Optimus robot, when asked about fixes of what it calls Full Self-Driving beta – a test version of its recent automated driving software.

Tesla is on hiring spree for people to work on humanoid bi-pedal robots, with about 20 job postings on “Tesla Bot” including jobs for designing key robot parts like “actuators.”

“The code you’ll write will at term run in thousands and thousands of humanoid robots internationally, and can subsequently be held to top quality standards,” considered one of the job postings said.

Tesla has over 2 million vehicles on the road.

Jonathan Hurst, chief technology officer at Agility Robotics, a humanoid robot firm founded in 2015 said the technology “is at once beginning to turn the corner.”

“Actually, a very important measure of success is do they generate income from it,” he told Reuters, referring to Tesla’s humanoid robot efforts.

Human help?

Analysts see more pageant than product. “It’s all a part of distracting people and giving them the following shiny object to chase after,” Guidehouse Insights analyst Sam Abuelsamid said.

Tesla BotInitially, Optimus will perform boring or dangerous jobs, including moving parts around its factories, in response to Musk.via REUTERS

“Investors usually are not enthusiastic about Optimus,” said Gene Munster, managing partner at enterprise capital firm Loup Ventures, which holds Tesla stocks. “It’s just such a low probability that it really works at scale,” he said, saying it’s “infinitely harder than self-driving cars.”

After which there’s Musk’s own experience with robots within the factory.

Throughout the 2018 production hell, Musk specifically noted the issues of the “fluff bot,” an assembly robot that did not perform easy tasks that human hands can do – picking up pieces of “fluff” and placing them on batteries.

He said the associated fee of getting technicians maintain the complicated robot far exceeded that of hiring someone to do the assembly.

The fluff bot is “a funny example but drives home the purpose that autonomy often doesn’t generalize well, and so handling soft fluffy material that isn’t as predictable as a rigid part was causing an enormous problem,” Aaron Johnson, a mechanical engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University, said.

“Human hands are way higher at doing that,” Musk said.

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