For Higher or Worse, Tesla Bot Is Precisely What We Anticipated

On the finish of Tesla’s 2021 AI Day final August, Elon Musk launched an idea for “Tesla Bot,” an electromechanically-actuated, autonomous bipedal “basic objective” humanoid robotic. Musk recommended {that a} prototype of Tesla Bot (additionally known as “Optimus”) could be full throughout the subsequent 12 months. After numerous hype, a prototype of Tesla Bot was certainly unveiled final night time at Tesla’s 2022 AI Day. And because it seems, the hype was simply that—hype.

Whereas there’s completely nothing unsuitable with the humanoid robotic that Musk very briefly demonstrated on stage, there’s nothing uniquely proper, both. We had been hoping for (if not essentially anticipating) extra from Tesla. And whereas the robotic isn’t precisely a disappointment, there’s little or no to counsel that it disrupts robotics the best way that SpaceX did for rockets or Tesla did for electrical vehicles.

You’ll be able to watch the complete 3+ hour livestream archived on YouTube right here (which additionally contains automobile stuff and whatnot), however we’re simply going to give attention to essentially the most fascinating bits about Tesla Bot/Optimus.

Setting Expectations

Elon Musk on stage with two Tesla engineers.Earlier than revealing the robotic, Musk attemped to set cheap expectations for the prototype.Tesla

These quotes are all from Musk.

“I do need to set some expectations with respect to our Optimus robotic… Final 12 months was only a individual in a robotic swimsuit, however we’ve come a great distance, and in comparison with that, it’s going to be very spectacular.”

It’s far, far too late for Musk to be trying to set cheap expectations for this robotic (or Tesla’s robotics program normally). Most roboticists know higher than to make use of people when setting expectations for humanoid robots, as a result of disappointment is inevitable. And attempting to put it aside on the literal final minute by saying, “in comparison with not having a robotic in any respect, our robotic shall be very spectacular,” whereas true, shouldn’t be going to sort things.

“I believe there’s some potential that what we’re doing right here at Tesla might make a significant contribution to AGI.”

Yeah, I’m not touching that.

Proper earlier than the robotic was introduced on stage, one of many engineers made clear that this was going to be the primary time that the robotic could be strolling untethered and unsupported. If true, that’s bonkers, as a result of why the heck would you wait till this second to present {that a} strive? I’m not notably impressed, simply confused.

For some context on what you’re about to see, a quick callback to a 12 months in the past final August, once I predicted what was in retailer for 2022:

It’s doable, even probably, that Tesla will construct some kind of Tesla Bot by someday subsequent 12 months, as Musk says. I believe that it gained’t look all that very like the idea photos on this presentation. I believe that it’ll be capable of rise up, and maybe stroll. Perhaps stand up to a shove or two and do some fundamental object recognition and greedy. And I believe after that, progress shall be gradual. However the laborious half shouldn’t be constructing a robotic, it’s getting that robotic to do helpful stuff, and I believe Musk is approach out of his depth right here.

Tesla Bot Improvement Platform Demo

I’m reminded of the 2015 DARPA Robotics Problem, as a result of lots of the humanoid platforms appeared just like the best way Tesla Bot seems to be. I suppose there’s solely a lot you are able to do with a principally bare electromechanical humanoid when it comes to kind issue, however at first look there’s nothing notably revolutionary or futuristic about Tesla’s design. If something, the robotic’s motion shouldn’t be fairly as much as DRC requirements, because it seems to be like it might have bother with any sort of unintended contact or perhaps a little bit of non-level ground (and Musk recommended as a lot).

On stage, the robotic did little or no. It walked efficiently, however not very dynamically. The “strikes” it made could nicely have been totally scripted, so we don’t know to what extent the robotic can steadiness by itself. I’m glad it didn’t fall on its face, but when it had, I wouldn’t have been stunned or judged it too harshly.

The humanoid robot stands near a desk and extends its arm to grab a watering can.Tesla confirmed movies of the robotic watering crops, carrying a field, and choosing up a metallic bar at a manufacturing unit. Tesla

After the very transient stay demo, Musk confirmed some video clips of the prototype robotic doing different issues (beginning at 19:30 within the livestream). These clips included the robotic strolling whereas carrying a field of unspecified weight and putting it on a desk, and greedy a watering can. The watering can was considerably spectacular, as a result of gripping that slim deal with seems to be tough.

“The robotic can truly do numerous greater than we’ve simply confirmed you. We simply didn’t need it to fall on its face.”
—Elon Musk

Nevertheless, regardless of the added footage from the robotic’s sensors we don’t know how this was truly achieved; whether or not it was autonomous or not; or what number of tries it took to get proper. There’s additionally a clip of a robotic choosing an object and trying to position it in a bin, however the video cuts proper earlier than the position is profitable. This makes me assume that we’re seeing rigorously curated best-case situations for efficiency.

That was our tough improvement robotic, utilizing semi-off-the-shelf actuators, however we’ve gone a step farther than that already. We even have an Optimus bot with absolutely Tesla-designed actuators, battery pack, management system, all the things—it wasn’t fairly able to stroll, however we wished to indicate you one thing that’s pretty near what’s going to go into manufacturing.

Tesla Bot Newest Technology Demo

This seems to be a bit extra just like the idea that Tesla confirmed final 12 months, though clearly it’s much less purposeful than the opposite prototype we noticed. It’s tempting to mission the capabilities of the primary robotic onto the second robotic, however it might be untimely to take action.

Right here you’re seeing Optimus with the levels of freedom that we anticipate to have within the Optimus manufacturing unit, which is the power to maneuver all of the fingers independently and opposable thumbs, in order that it’s capable of function instruments and do helpful issues.

Similar to final 12 months, Musk is implying that the robotic will be capable of function instruments and do helpful issues as a result of it has the mandatory levels of freedom. However after all the {hardware} is simply step one in direction of working instruments and doing helpful issues, and the software program is, I might argue, a lot more durable and way more time consuming, and Tesla appears to have barely began work on that facet of issues.

Our objective is to make a helpful humanoid robotic as rapidly as doable. We’ve designed it utilizing the identical self-discipline that we use in designing the automobile, which is to design it for manufacturing, such that it’s doable to make the robotic at excessive quantity with low price and excessive reliability. That’s extremely necessary.…Optimus is designed to be an especially succesful robotic, however made in very excessive quantity, in the end thousands and thousands of models. And it’s anticipated to price a lot lower than a automobile—a lot lower than $20,000 could be my guess.

I typically agree with Musk right here, in that traditionally, humanoid robots weren’t designed for manufacturability. That is altering, nevertheless, and I believe that different firms probably have a head begin over Tesla in manufacturability now. However it’s totally doable that Tesla will be capable of quickly catch up in the event that they’re capable of leverage all that automobile constructing experience into robotic constructing by some means. It’s not a on condition that it’ll work that approach, but it surely’s a good suggestion, probably an enormous benefit.

As for the manufacturing quantity and value, I don’t know what “anticipated” means. This line received some applause, however so far as I’m involved, these numbers are mainly meaningless in the intervening time.

You’ve all seen very spectacular humanoid robotic demonstrations, and that’s nice, however what are they lacking? They’re lacking a mind—they don’t have the intelligence to navigate the world by themselves.

I’m not precisely positive who Musk is throwing shade at, however there are solely a few firms who’d most likely qualify with “very spectacular humanoid robotic demonstrations.” And people firms do, the truth is, have robots that broadly have the sort of intelligence that enables them to navigate a minimum of among the world by themselves, significantly better than now we have seen from Optimus at this level. If Musk is saying that these robots are insufficiently autonomous or world-aware, then okay, however to date Tesla has not achieved higher, and doing higher shall be numerous work.

The group has put in an unbelievable quantity of labor, seven days every week, to get to the demonstration in the present day. I’m tremendous proud, and so they’ve actually achieved a fantastic job.

Whereas the precise achievements right here have been mercilessly overshadowed by the hype surrounding them, that is really an astonishing quantity of labor to be achieved in such a short while, and Tesla’s robotics group must be pleased with what they’ve achieved. And whereas there’ll inevitably be comparisons to different firms with humanoid robots, it’s crucial to recollect the context right here: Tesla has made this occur in one thing like eight months. It’s nuts.

There’s nonetheless numerous work to be achieved to refine Optimus and enhance it, and that’s actually why we’re holding this occasion—to persuade among the most proficient folks on this planet to affix Tesla and assist make it a actuality, assist carry it to fruition at scale in order that it will probably assist thousands and thousands of individuals.

I can see the enchantment of Tesla for somebody who needs to begin a robotics profession, because you’d get to work on a quickly evolving {hardware} platform backed by what I can solely assume is just about limitless assets.

…This implies a way forward for abundance, a future the place there is no such thing as a poverty, the place you’ll be able to have no matter you need when it comes to services and products. It truly is a basic transformation of civilization as we all know it.

Perhaps simply, like, get your robotic to reliably and affordably do A Single Helpful Factor, first?

The images showing the evolution of the robot.Three variations of the Optimus design: Idea, Improvement Platform, and Newest Technology. Tesla

Musk takes a break after this, and we get some precise particular data from a sequence of Tesla robotics group members in regards to the newest technology Optimus.

Optimus {Hardware}

  • 28 levels of freedom
  • 11 extra levels of freedom in every hand
  • 2.3 kWh 52V battery pack, “good for a couple of full day of labor”

We’ll come again to the fingers, however that battery actually stands out for with the ability to energy the robotic for a complete day(ish). Once more, now we have to level out that till Tesla truly demonstrates this, it’s not all that significant, however Tesla does know a heck of rather a lot about energy techniques and batteries and I’m guessing that they’ll be capable of ship on this.

Computer generated image showing the robot on the ground after a fall.Tesla is utilizing simulations to design the robotic’s construction in order that it will probably undergo minimal injury after a fall.Tesla

I recognize that Tesla is pondering very early about learn how to construction their robotic to have the ability to fall down safely and stand up once more with solely superficial injury. Though, they don’t appear to be profiting from any sort of protecting movement for fall mitigation, which is an lively space of analysis elsewhere. And what’s not talked about on this context is security of others. I’m glad the robotic gained’t get broken all that a lot when it falls, however can Tesla say the identical for whoever is perhaps standing subsequent to it?

Six images showing the robot's actuators.Optimus will use six completely different actuators: three rotary and three linear models.Tesla

Tesla’s customized actuators appear very cheap. Not particular, notably, however Tesla has to make its personal actuators if it wants numerous them, which it supposedly will. I’d anticipate these to be completely respectable contemplating the extent of mechanical experience Tesla has, however so far as I can inform nothing right here is loopy small or low cost or environment friendly or highly effective or something like that. And it’s very laborious to inform from these slides and from the presentation simply how nicely the actuators are going to work, particularly for dynamic motions. The robotic’s software program has numerous catching as much as do first.

Computer generated image showing the robot's hand.Optimus will function a bio-inspired hand design with cable-driven actuators.Tesla

Every hand has six cable-driven actuators for fingers and thumb (with springs to offer the opening power), which Tesla selected for simplicity and to attenuate half depend. That is maybe a little bit shocking, since cable drives sometimes aren’t as sturdy and may be extra finicky to maintain calibrated. The five-finger hand is important, Tesla says, as a result of Optimus shall be working with human instruments in human environments. And that’s actually one perspective, though it’s an enormous tradeoff in complexity. The hand is designed to hold a 9kg bag.

Optimus Software program

Tesla engineer stands near Optimus prototype on stage.Tesla is utilizing software program elements developed for its automobiles and porting them to the robotic’s atmosphere.Tesla

Software program! The next quote comes from Milan Kovac, who’s on the autonomy group.

All these cool issues we confirmed earlier within the movies had been doable in only a few months, because of the wonderful work we’ve achieved on Autopilot over the previous few years. Most of these elements ported fairly simply over to the bot’s atmosphere. If you concentrate on it, we’re simply transferring from a robotic on wheels, to a robotic on legs. A number of the elements are comparable, and a few others required extra heavy lifting.

I nonetheless essentially disagree with the implied “humanoid robots are simply vehicles with legs” factor, but it surely’s spectacular that they had been capable of port a lot in any respect—I used to be extremely skeptical of that final 12 months, however I’m extra optimistic now, and with the ability to generalize between platforms (on some degree) could possibly be enormous for each Tesla and for autonomous techniques extra typically. I’d like extra particulars on what was simple, and what was not.

Images showing how the robot sees the world through cameras and computer generated views.Tesla confirmed how sensing utilized in its automobiles may help the Optimus robotic navigate.Tesla

What we’re seeing above, although, is among the causes I used to be skeptical. That occupancy grid (the place the robotic’s sensors are detecting potential obstacles) on the underside may be very car-ish, in that the precedence is to make completely positive that the robotic stays very distant from something it might conceivably run into.

By itself, this gained’t switch nicely to a humanoid robotic that should straight work together with objects to do helpful duties. I’m positive there are many methods to adapt the Tesla automobile’s impediment avoidance system, however that’s the query: how laborious is that switch, and is it higher than utilizing an answer developed particularly for cellular manipulators?

Tesla engineer on stage next to Optimus prototype.Tesla defined the challenges of dynamic strolling in humanoid robots, and its method to movement planning.Tesla

The subsequent a part of the presentation targeted on some movement planning and state estimation stuff that was very fundamental, so far as I might make out. There’s nothing unsuitable with the fundamentals, but it surely’s barely bizarre that Tesla spent a lot time on this. I suppose it’s necessary context for most people watching, however they kind of talked about it like they’d found learn how to do all of these things themselves, which I hope they didn’t, as a result of once more, very, very fundamental stuff that different humanoid robots have been doing for a really very long time.

Slide shown by Tesla engineer to explain the robot's Motion Control.Tesla adopted a standard method to movement management, based mostly on a mannequin of the robotic and state estimation.Tesla

Yet one more quote from Milan Kovac:

Throughout the subsequent few weeks, we’re going to begin specializing in an actual use case at one in every of our factories. We’re actually going to attempt to nail this down, and iron out the entire parts wanted to deploy this product in the actual world. I’m fairly positive we are able to get this achieved throughout the subsequent few months or years, and make this product a actuality and alter the complete financial system.

Ignoring that final bit about altering the complete financial system, and presumably additionally ignoring the timeframe as a result of “subsequent few months or years” shouldn’t be notably significant, the push to make Tesla Bot helpful is one other substantial benefit that Tesla has. Not like most firms engaged on humanoid robots, Tesla is probably its personal largest buyer, a minimum of initially, and having these in-house sensible duties for the robotic to coach on might actually assist speed up improvement.

“Optimus is designed to be an especially succesful robotic, however made in very excessive quantity, in the end thousands and thousands of models. And it’s anticipated to price a lot lower than a automobile—a lot lower than $20,000 could be my guess.”

Nevertheless, I’m having bother imagining what Tesla Bot would truly do in a manufacturing unit that will be uniquely helpful and never achieved higher by a non-humanoid robotic. I’m very to see what Tesla comes up with right here, and whether or not they could make it occur in months (or years). I think that it’s going to be way more troublesome than they’re suggesting that it will likely be, particularly as they get to 90% of the place they need to be and begin attempting to crack that final 10% that’s crucial for one thing dependable.

This was the top of the formal presentation about Optimus, however there was a Q&A on the finish with Musk the place he gave some extra details about the robotic facet of issues. He additionally gave some extra non-information, which is price together with simply in case you haven’t but had sufficient eye rolling for in the future.

Viewers Q&A

Elon Musk stands on stage with the Tesla AI team.Musk expects Optimus to price lower than a automobile, “a lot lower than $20,00 {dollars} could be my guess,” he mentioned.Tesla

Our objective with Optimus is to have a robotic that’s maximally helpful as rapidly as doable. There are numerous methods to resolve the assorted issues of a humanoid robotic, and we’re most likely not barking up the best tree on all of the technical options. We’re open to evolving the technical options that you simply see right here over time. However we needed to decide one thing. We’re attempting to observe the objective of quickest pathway to a helpful robotic that may be made at quantity. And we’re going to check the robotic internally in our manufacturing unit to see how helpful it’s, as a result of you need to shut the loop on actuality to verify that the robotic is, the truth is, helpful.

It is a variation on the minimum-viable product concept, though it appears to be extra from the attitude of constructing a generalist robotic, which is considerably at odds with one thing minimally viable. It’s good that Musk views the {hardware} as one thing in flux, and that he’s framed all the things inside a plan for quantity manufacturing. This isn’t the one option to do it—you’ll be able to first construct a helpful robotic after which work out learn how to make it cheaper, however Tesla’s method might get them to manufacturing sooner. If, that’s, they’re able to affirm that the robotic is the truth is helpful. I’m nonetheless not satisfied that it will likely be, a minimum of not on a time scale that may fulfill Musk.

I believe we’ll need to have actually enjoyable variations of Optimus. Optimus may be utilitarian, and do duties, but it surely will also be like a good friend, and a buddy, and hang around with you. I’m positive folks will consider nice makes use of for this robotic. After getting the core intelligence and actuators found out, you’ll be able to put all kinds of costumes, I suppose, on the robotic.

Whereas Musk appears to be principally joking right here, the entire “it’s going to be your good friend” is basically not a very good perspective to carry to a robotic like this, in my view. Or most likely any robotic, in any respect truthfully.

We wish over time for Optimus to be the sort of android that you simply see in sci-fi, like in Star Trek: The Subsequent Technology, like Knowledge. However clearly we might program the robotic to be much less robot-like and extra pleasant, and it will probably clearly study to emulate people and really feel very pure.

Much less robot-like and extra pleasant than a human pretending to be a robotic attempting to be a human? Good luck with that.

We’re going to begin Optimus with quite simple duties within the manufacturing unit, like perhaps carrying a component from one place to a different, or loading a component into a standard robotic cell. We’ll begin with how can we make it helpful in any respect, after which step by step develop the variety of conditions during which it’s helpful. I believe the variety of conditions the place Optimus is beneficial will develop exponentially.

I believe it’s extra probably that within the short-to-medium time period, Tesla will wrestle to seek out conditions the place Optimus is uniquely helpful in an environment friendly and cost-effective approach.

When it comes to when folks can order one, I believe it’s not that distant. I don’t know, I’d say inside three years, most likely no more than 5 years.

Uh. Perhaps as a analysis platform?

I believe Optimus goes to be unbelievable in 5 years. In 10 years, mind-blowing. I’m actually to see that occur, and I hope you might be too.

Regardless of my skepticism on the timeframe right here, 5 years is a very long time for any robotic, and ten years is mainly without end. I’m additionally actually to see this stuff occur, though Musk’s definitions of “unbelievable” and “mind-blowing” could also be a lot completely different than mine. However we’ll see, gained’t we?

What’s Subsequent?

Elon Musk with the Tesla AI team on stage.Tesla’s AI Day serves as a recruitment occasion for the corporate. “There’s nonetheless numerous work to be achieved to refine Optimus and enhance it, and that’s actually why we’re holding this occasion—to persuade among the most proficient folks on this planet to affix Tesla,” Musk mentioned.Tesla

I believe Elon Musk now has a considerably higher concept of what he’s doing with Tesla Bot. The extreme hype remains to be there, however now that they’ve truly constructed one thing, Musk appears to have a significantly better concept of how laborious it truly is.

Issues are solely going to get harder from right here.

Most of what we noticed within the presentation was {hardware}. And {hardware} is necessary and a crucial first step, however software program is arguably a way more vital problem in relation to making robotics helpful in the actual world. Understanding and interacting with the atmosphere, reasoning and decision-making, the power to study and be taught new duties—these are all crucial items to the puzzle of a helpful robotic that Tesla is attempting to place collectively, however they’re all additionally extraordinarily troublesome, leading edge issues, regardless of the large quantity of labor that the analysis neighborhood has put into them.

And to date, we (nonetheless) have little or no indication that Tesla goes to be any higher at tackling these items than anybody else. There doesn’t seem like something all that particular or thrilling from Tesla that gives any distinctive basis for Musk’s imaginative and prescient in a approach that’s more likely to enable them to outpace different firms engaged on comparable issues. I’ll reiterate what I mentioned a 12 months in the past: the laborious half shouldn’t be constructing a robotic, it’s getting that robotic to do helpful stuff.

“I believe Optimus goes to be unbelievable in 5 years. In 10 years, mind-blowing. I’m actually to see that occur, and I hope you might be too.”

I might, after all, be unsuitable. Tesla probably has extra assets to throw at this drawback than nearly anybody else. Perhaps the automotive software program will translate significantly better and sooner than I believe it’ll. There could possibly be an entire bunch of easy however invaluable use instances in Tesla’s personal factories that may present crucial stepping stones for Optimus. Tesla’s battery and manufacturing experience might have an outsized affect on the affordability, reliability, and success of the robotic. Their fundamental method to planning and management might change into a dependable basis that may assist the system mature sooner. And the group is clearly very proficient and prepared to work extraordinarily laborious, which could possibly be the distinction between modest success and gradual failure.

Actually, I might like to be unsuitable. We’re simply beginning to see some lifelike potentialities with business legged and humanoid robots. There are many issues to resolve, but in addition a number of potential, and Tesla discovering success could be an enormous confidence increase in business humanoids broadly. We will additionally hope that the entire assets that Tesla is placing in direction of Optimus will both straight or not directly help other people engaged on humanoid robots, if Tesla is prepared to share a few of what they study. However as of in the present day, that is all simply hoping, and it’s on Tesla to really make it occur.

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