How robots will become part of everyday life thanks to Musk
In August 2021, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced at the Tesla AI Day that he would build a humanoid bot to ‘navigate through a world built for humans and eliminate dangerous, repetitive and boring tasks.’ At the time, Musk had nothing to show for this aside from a human dressed as a robot that accompanied him on stage.
However, last Friday (September 30th, 2022), Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled his latest prototype ‘Optimus,’ the humanoid robot, at the 2022 Tesla AI Day. The engineer recruiting event was hosted in Palo Alto, California. Musk and other automakers’ AI and hardware team leaders spoke and demonstrated the latest robotic technology to recruit new talent.
Musk’s ‘Optimus’ bot was presented as walking on a flat surface, waving to the crowd, and performing manual tasks such as lifting and carrying objects. The demonstration left many robotics experts unimpressed as, at some points, it could not effectively walk and had to be moved across the stage by human helpers. CEO of Fetch Robotics, Melonee Wise, stated that there ‘are a lot of obvious gaps,’ including its lack of agility and flexibility and that Optimus’ hands’ technology is relatively basic compared to those developed previously by roboticists. Wise claims that ‘the idea that [Optimus] will be doing anything useful in five years is laughable.’
Boston Dynamics’ humanoid robot has been demonstrated doing parkour and dancing. In contrast, start-up company Agility has published a video of their humanoid robot sprinting around a running track at an impressive pace. As Tesla’s humanoid robot leaves many disappointed with its performance compared to other companies, it is still in the early days of its development. Many of these companies have had many years to develop their robot to where it is today, whereas Tesla has had only just over a year. Henry Christensen, a robotics and AI researcher at UC Davis, states, ‘to go from a man in a suit to real hardware in 13 months is pretty incredible.’
One primary standpoint that sets Tesla’s humanoid robot apart from its competitors is that Musk intends for Optimus to be mass-produced, with millions of units, priced at approximately USD 20,000. So, what does this mean for the future? Although Optimus has few features and capabilities, it signifies a step towards Musk’s goal of a fundamental transformation for civilization as we know it.’ Sometime in the future, it is intended for these robots to take over dangerous, repetitive, and monotonous tasks so that humans no longer have to do them. This would significantly impact modern economics and societies as many dangerous or repetitive roles could instead be performed by robots, such as warehouse workers, retail workers, factory workers, janitors, construction workers, and many more. It is difficult to determine how far into the future this may occur, but Musk’s Optimus is a step in this direction.
Many people are skeptical of the future of AI and how long it will take to become a significant part of our society. However, as with all technological advancements, it can be challenging to comprehend just how much of an impact it will have until it has happened. If you were to ask anyone in the early days of the internet how much of an effect they believed it would have on our society, the majority of people wouldn’t even be able to comprehend just how much of a change it has made to today’s world.
Just like how the internet or the smartphone started, Optimus may not currently seem too impressive. However, the potential behind this technology can drastically change the world as we know it. It is difficult to even comprehend the scope of this ‘fundamental transformation for civilization as we know it, as the technology is in such early stages of development. Nevertheless, this technology should not be overlooked because of its current lackluster performance, as the potential behind it is life-changing. Musk claims that if the humanoid robot is successful, it will lead to a future ‘where there is no poverty and people ‘can have whatever [they] want in terms of products and services.
We may have no idea how far away a future where AI technology takes over the workplace and humans no longer have to work is; however, Elon Musk’s Optimus is a step towards this life-changing future. Although Tesla’s humanoid robot currently lacks many features, it represents making what was once considered a dystopian sci-fi concept a reality. Only time will tell just how much of an impact AI technology will have on our future.
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