Elon Musk’s awkward robot

Musk said, “The robot can actually do a lot more,” justifying the caution at the event. About humanoids, built by other companies and showcased at events, the Tesla CEO had once said they missed a brain and that it was a problem

Updated - October 04, 2022 05:59 pm IST

Published - October 03, 2022 04:58 pm IST

A file photo of the humanoid robot developed by Tesla

A file photo of the humanoid robot developed by Tesla | Photo Credit: TESLA

Elon Musk put on a show over the weekend. The spotlight was on ‘Optimus’, a robot his car company built and showcased on a day it calls the ‘AI Day’. It failed to make a splash. The humanoid was wheeled to the stage and carried to a small podium for display on Friday.

Tesla’s prototype humanoid walked awkwardly in front of a crowd. It waved its hand and moved its hips, which gave an impression of a humanoid from the ‘90s, not 2022. The robot’s limited action, to some extent, underwhelmed several AI experts and robot engineers.

Musk said, “The robot can actually do a lot more,” justifying the caution at the event. About humanoids, built by other companies and showcased at events, the Tesla CEO had once said they missed a brain and that it was a problem.

Now, his own company’s creation hardly displayed any evidence of a robot with a brain. But Musk was quick to support Optimus by saying he expects the robot to be fully ready in the next three years. The robot’s AI system, Tesla claims, is an extension of the technology used in the company’s self-driving cars that depend on cameras, sensors and a database of images to drive on the road.

One AI researcher, Filip Piekniewski, said the event was “cringeworthy” and an “utter scam”. He noted that a test fall is an important yardstick to know how well-built and agile a robot is. Another said, “none of this [Optimus] is cutting edge”.

Investors and analysts have also expressed scepticism, and have advised the car company to focus on projects closer to Tesla’s core business of electric cars than building robots.

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