Tesla, led by Elon Musk is playing with the idea of producing humanoid robots at scale. Alluding to the benevolent leader of the Autobots from the animated (later cinematic) universe of Transformers, Tesla has named the bot Optimus. Unlike assembly line bots that can only perform a specific set of simple tasks, a humanoid robot is supposed to be more general purpose. Its reaction to an unforeseen situation should be more akin to that of humans (ideally, minus human indecision and fear).
Elon Musk who already heads an electric car company Tesla and a space exploration company SpaceX has a vision for Tesla that ventures way beyond self-driving cars. The job postings released by Tesla tell that the code their robotics engineers will write will be responsible for deploying millions of robots across the world. It loops us into the incredible weightage of the revelation of Optimus on the company’s September AI day.
Self-driving cars were difficult but Tesla has succeeded in building revolutionary vehicles. Humanoids are going to be infinitely more difficult. While the world of tech enthusiasts, investors, and the followers of Elon Musk will keenly await the launch of Optimus, it will not be very easy to impress them. “If he just gets the robot to walk around, or he gets the robots to dance, that’s already been done. That’s not that impressive,” says Nancy Cooke, a professor in human systems engineering at Arizona State University.
In fact, the investors who hold large sums in Tesla stocks are not particularly happy with the idea of mass-producing humanoids. The chances of success are bleak and even if they end up creating general-purpose humanoids, chances are that they’ll be too expensive to be adopted.
The stock prices of Tesla motors have plummeted 25% since their peak in 2021. With that in mind, a lot is riding on the September AI day launch. Though there is widespread scepticism around the event one cannot deny that Elon Musk has proved naysayers wrong multiple times in the past. So, will we be witnessing history being made on 30th September? We’ll have to wait to find out.