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Tesla’s Optimus robot as explained by Elon Musk

Despite a pretty lackluster debut, Elon Musk gave a solid preview of what’s in store for Tesla’s Optimus robot.

We finally got a good look at a working prototype of Tesla’s first foray into robots.

Optimus, as its been dubbed, was initially introduced as a concept at the company’s 2021 AI day, and despite the hype Elon Musk has thrown behind its nascent humanoid, there’s still a lot of mystery surrounding what exactly Optimus is designed to do.

Here’s what we know (from Musk’s own comments) after Tesla’s big showcase.

What’s Optimus’ timeline?

It’ll likely be a while (if ever) until we see Optimus become commonplace, but Musk says the company’s goal is “to make a useful humanoid robot as quickly as possible.” Musk’s ambitions are particularly high, but seeing as Teslas are fairly commonplace electric vehicles, there’s a chance we could see Tesla bots IRL in the not-so-distant future.

Then again, Musk has made equally as optimistic forecasts about Tesla’s self-driving technology, and that hasn’t exactly panned out the way he projected.

How mobile is Optimus?

Tesla drew a lot of design inspiration from the human body, giving its Optimus bot 28 degrees of freedom. That’s far lower than what the human body provides, but Optimus still has many degrees of freedom in its hands and even two degrees of freedom in its thumb to give it some opposable action. With articulating hands, the Optimus was designed to “operate tools and do useful things,” as Musk puts it.

Musk also previously mentioned applications in caring for the elderly and, of course, working in its Tesla factories.

How commercial will Optimus be?

Musk said during AI Day that Tesla would likely be producing “millions of units.” It’s clear that Tesla wants to mass produce Optimus bots as much as its cars, but we’re not sure that everyone really needs a robot. It does make a lot of sense for Tesla, considering Optimus is just a repurposed Tesla car, but this path does sound disconcertingly similar to some of the more dystopic sci-fi movie plots.

How much will Optimus cost?

It’s too early to have an official price for the Optimus bot, but Musk said that it will cost “probably less than $20,000” during AI Day. We’re not sure what the going rate for a humanoid robot is these days, but Musk compares it to Tesla cars, noting that the bot will be much cheaper. If this is the right price point, we could very well see Optimus bots become the standard for the humanoid robot market.

Tesla showed off a timeline of progress for its Optimus bot at AI Day 2022.Tesla / YouTube

When will Optimus be ready?

Even Musk acknowledges that “there’s still a lot of work to be done to refine Optimus and improve it.” He notes that this is only the first version of Optimus and that Tesla is looking to expand its AI team to further develop its tech.

As Musk pointed out during AI Day, Tesla is looking to recruit its AI team, which means the company is expecting growth, particularly for its AI department. Maybe that means we’ll soon see the Tesla bot do more impressive things than just waving and dancing in front of a live audience.

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