Elon Musk showcases Tesla’s humanoid robot

Tesla CEO Elon Musk showcased his much-touted humanoid robot “Optimus” at the electric vehicle maker’s “AI Day” event on Friday.

A prototype of the robot walked on stage and waved to the seated audience. A video of the robot carrying a box, watering plants and moving metal bars in the automaker's factory was shown.

“Our goal is to make a useful humanoid robot as quickly as possible,” Musk said at the event being held at a Tesla office in Palo Alto, California. “There is still a lot of work to be done to refine Optimus and prove it.”

He said currently humanoid robots are “missing a brain,” saying they do not have the intelligence to navigate the world by themselves, and they are also very expensive and made in low volume.

By contrast, he said, the Optimus will be an “extremely capable robot,” to be made in very high volume, probably, ultimately millions of units and is expected to cost much less than a car, at under USD 20,000.

The key test for the robot is whether it can handle unexpected situations.

Musk announced Tesla’s plan for humanoid robots at its AI day in August last year and delayed this year’s event from August to have its robot prototype working, with a plan to start production possibly next year.

Tesla teased the unveiling of the bot on social media with an image of metallic robotic hands making a heart shape. But building human-like, versatile hands that can manipulate different objects is extremely challenging, said Heni Ben Amor, a robotics professor at Arizona State University.

Initially, Optimus, an allusion to the powerful and benevolent leader of the Autobots in the Transformers media franchise, would perform boring or dangerous jobs, including moving parts around Tesla factories or attaching a bolt to a car with a wrench, according to Musk.

Musk has said that in the future robots could be used in homes, making dinners, mowing the lawn and caring for the elderly, and even becoming a “buddy” for humans.

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