Tesla has unveiled “Optimus Gen 2”, a new generation of its humanoid robot that should be able to take over repetitive tasks from humans.
Optimus, also known as Tesla Bot, has not been taken seriously by many outside of the more hardcore Tesla fans, and for good reason.
When it was first announced, it seemed to be a half-baked idea from CEO Elon Musk with a dancer disguised as a robot for visual aid. It also didn’t help that the demo at Tesla AI Day last year was less than impressive.
At the time, Tesla had a very early prototype that didn’t look like much. It was barely able to walk around and wave at the crowd. That was about it.
But we did note that the idea behind the project made sense. Of course, everyone knows the value of a humanoid robot that could be versatile enough to replace human labor cheaply, but many doubts it’s achievable in the short term.
Tesla believed it to be possible by leveraging its AI work on its self-driving vehicle program and expertise in batteries and electric motors. It argued that its vehicles are already robots on wheels. Now, it just needs to make them in humanoid forms to be able to replace humans in some tasks.
We did note that the project was gaining credibility with the update at Tesla’s 2023 shareholders meeting earlier this year.
At the time, Tesla showed several more prototypes that all looked more advanced and started to perform actually useful tasks.
In September, we got another Optimus update. In that report, Tesla said that Optimus is now being trained with neural nets end-to-end, and it was able to perform new tasks, like sorting objects autonomously.
Today, Tesla has released a new update from the Optimus program. This time, the automaker unveiled the Optimus Gen 2, a new generation of the humanoid robot prototype:
This version of the robot now features all Tesla-designed actuators and sensors.
It also appears much more refined in general:
With this new version, Tesla says that the robot is now able to walk 30% faster. Based on the video, it won’t be breaking speed records soon, but it is starting to get into the range of usefulness.
The company also claims a 10 kg weight reduction while improving balance.
In the video demonstration, Optimus Gen 2 is seen performing a squat while balancing itself.
One of the toughest parts of making a useful humanoid robot is the hands. They need to be strong enough to support significant weights yet able to be precise enough to handle delicate objects.
Tesla Optimus Gen 2 features brand-new hands that look like an important upgrade:
The company said that it plans to soon start using the robot in its own manufacturing operations. Once it has proven its usefulness, Tesla plans to start selling the robot.
In a previous update on Optimus, Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed that the “Optimus stuff is extremely underrated.” The CEO said that the demand could be as high as 10 to 20 billion units.
He went as far as “confidently predicting” that Optimus will account for “a majority of Tesla’s long-term value.”
To state we have to wait for FSD doesn't make much sense. The requirements are very different with FSD much more difficult. I suspect Optimus will be functional before FSD is L4/L5. Optimus also doesn't have to be fully functional to be useable in many factory settings. While FSD has to be for L4/L5. Major difference.
This is more of a robotic update on the Optimus, which is only one aspect of the program. Obviously, a humanoid robot is tough to build, but it’s also not really useful if you don’t have an AI system that is capable of using the robot to perform useful tasks.
I am happy to see that Tesla is making good progress on the robotic front, but I am a little bit more skeptical about the AI part, considering the status of Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta.
Tesla’s work on FSD is supposed to be the basis for Optimus’s AI and until that is figured out, and it’s certainly not right now, I don’t see Optimus working.
It doesn’t mean that it won’t one day, but we kind of need to see FSD work first.
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