What is the Tesla Bot? Elon Musk announces radical project to 'eliminate boring tasks' in 2022
Musk announces new humanoid robot to 'eliminate boring tasks' coming in 2022, based on Tesla's AI work with its cars
Remember the 2004 Will Smith movie 'iRobot'? You'd think from films like that, and 'Avengers: Age of Ultron', we'd learn not to mess around with humanoid-like robots, but apparently, Elon Musk didn't get the memo. On August 19, the eccentric entrepreneur used Tesla's 'AI Day' to show off a new humanoid-like robot aptly named the Tesla Bot. "It's intended to be friendly and navigate through a world built for humans," Musk said, but not everyone (i.e. social media) was convinced.
From the man that brought us electric cars, and reusable rockets, you'd think Musk would devote his time to combating climate change, but that doesn't seem to be the case. After controversially naming his child 'X Æ A-12', the Telsa CEO is now turning his eyes towards AI. We've seen AI be used for good before, such as when a system detected 50 new planets in 2020. We also reported on the bizarre, but useful AI system that could detect cancer through an "anal print".
When it comes to humanoid robots though, Hollywood has cautioned us to stay well away. So far, the only humanoid-like robot in existence is Sophia, while Disney has managed to create a few that could eventually replace stunt doubles. Musk though has far grander dreams. It's ironic since Musk once called AI "a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization." If you are wondering what the hell these robots are about, here's everything you need to know.
What is the Tesla Bot?
If you've seen 'iRobot', the Tesla Bot is something very similar, except it doesn't (yet) have a face. The 5 foot 8-inch humanoid-like machine will weigh 125 pounds because it is made from "lightweight materials". Musk didn't details what those materials were, but then again this wasn't a public release. Looking very much like a person, the Tesla Bot will be powered by Tesla's neural networks and Dojo advanced supercomputer.
"Basically, if you think about what we’re doing right now with cars, Tesla is arguably the world’s biggest robotics company because our cars are like semi-sentient robots on wheels," Musk said, and added, "it kind of makes sense to put that on to a humanoid form." The bot is designed to take over all our "boring" repetitive tasks, like shopping. It can carry up to 45 pounds, so getting your groceries shouldn't be an issue.
Beyond that, Musk didn't reveal much else about the machine. Internally, the machine will have multi-cam video, Tesla's Full Self Driving computer, force feedback sensing, and a screen for "useful information" where the face will be. While Musk has rallied against AI in the past, he defended the product saying, "if Tesla doesn’t do it, someone else will," and that he wanted to do it "safely".
What can it do?
Musk specifically listed shopping as an example but didn't say if the Bot could drive your Tesla, or fix the heating. By the sound of it, that could be in the future as Musk is reportedly eyeing a future where manual labor is a thing of the past. By his description, you should be able to get the Tesla Bot to do gardening, vacuum your house, and maybe even make a snack. Of course, that does mean some implications for the economy, which he was careful to note. "In the long term, I do think there needs to be universal basic income. But not right now because the robot doesn’t work," he said.
If you've always wanted a robot to do your grocery shopping, well you might have to wait a bit longer. The prototype won't be ready till "sometime next year". It'll probably take a few years more to get it to the mass market, and that's assuming US regulators don't create any roadblocks. At the moment, there are also a lot of questions about a worldwide release, with many governments taking a cautious approach to AI. Musk didn't reveal a cost for the machine either, but don't expect it to come cheap. Like Tesla's cars, this could be quite expensive, to begin with, and you won't be eligible for any subsidies.
If you are worried about the robot uprising, Musk has some good news. "At a physical level, you can run away from it," he said to laughs from the crowd. The Bot will have a speed limit of just 5 MPH, and weighing just 125 pounds should mean people can "most likely overpower it." Ultimately, this does seem like a mad experiment of sorts, as social media was quick to note.
'This is going to be a very bad idea'
One user dubbed the Tesla Bot "OptimusSub-Prime." One said, "5 years ago, experts predicted fully autonomous androids by 2045. #TeslaBot will likely put us 20 years ahead of schedule." A surprised user tweeted, "$TSLA wow… The TeslaBot. A literal robot designed with the dojo chip that will be able to complete human actions. Eventually grocery shopping and other human tasks. This company is unbelievable."
5 years ago, experts predicted fully autonomous androids by 2045. #TeslaBot will likely put us 20 years ahead of schedule.— Tyler #BLM (@Hades948) August 20, 2021
$TSLA wow…— Za (@ZaInvests) August 20, 2021
A literal robot designed with the dojo chip that will be able to complete human actions. Eventually grocery shopping and other human tasks.
This company is unbelievable. pic.twitter.com/b5K3wRKfLa
"Some of us *really* weren’t paying attention during Ex Machina and it shows. #teslabot," one person tweeted. Another commented, "Oh geez, I have seen enough movies to just know this is going to be a very very bad idea...Lord save us!! #TeslaBot." One user tweeted, "Is TeslaBot for real!? Didn’t see that coming."
Some of us *really* weren’t paying attention during Ex Machina and it shows. #teslabot— Jason Shellen (@shellen) August 20, 2021
There were plenty of film references on Twitter, as users were divided over what would happen in the future. What do you think? Did Tesla just take us one step closer to the robot uprising? Or are you glad you don't have to go shopping anymore? Either way, Musk is going ahead full steam with the project. "The future of physical work is a choice," he proudly declared.