Elon Musk's robot will have to work hard to wow Tesla's AI Day

Elon Musk’s robot will have to work hard to wow Tesla’s AI Day

On Friday, Elon Musk is expected to unveil a prototype of his Optimus robot known as the Tesla Bot. When Musk announced last August that Tesla was developing a general-purpose robot capable of handling “unsafe, repetitive, or boring” tasks, experts reacted with skepticism. A year later, not much has changed, say robotics the edge We are a long way from building a robot that can replace human labor.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t excited to see what Tesla has come up with.

“We still have fundamental gaps in robotics technology that must be resolved before we see anything ‘human-level’,” says Will Jackson, CEO of robotics company Engineered Arts. the edge. Jackson sees the lack of artificial muscle commensurate with biological muscle as one such problem. “Maybe a Tesla [has] It’s resolved – if they did, it would be an absolute game-changer – however, it seems unlikely that it would be a huge leap forward out of nowhere.”

First, let’s summarize what Musk had to say about the Tesla Bot.

According to a draft specification last year, the robot is supposed to be human and bipedal, standing 5’8 inches tall and weighing 125 pounds, with an endurance of 45 pounds and a walking speed of 5 miles per hour. Musk says the robot will use the same autopilot cameras and software that Tesla uses in its cars to move around the world and will be able to perform factory jobs that are currently left to humans. It will be “friendly” of course.

a: hover]: text-black [&>a]: 63 . gray underline shade [&>a:hover]: shadow-underline-black text-grey-63″>Photo: Tesla/The Verge

As is often the case with Musk, his comments on the Tesla Bot are hazy about timeframes and capabilities. The world’s richest man often appears to make promises and predictions on the spot, allowing fans and supporters to claim he was just ambitious or was discussing long-term prospects when he fails to follow through.

For example, while announcing the Tesla Bot, Musk said that the bot would be able to follow instructions in the real world. He said, before adding, “He should be able, you know, ‘please go to the store and get me the next groceries, that sort of thing.’” He noted, however, that Musk never said it. when This may be possible.

Musk claims you’ll be able to buy your own Tesla Bot in ‘less than 10 years’

However, the Tesla CEO also made clear predictions about the robot. in interview in april, said Tesla will have “interesting prototypes sometime this year” and “may have something useful next year” or “very likely in a couple of years.” He also said it would be “less than 10 years” before consumers could buy their own Tesla Bot to help around the house and that the cost would eventually be “less than a car.”

So, tick 2032 when you find a Tesla Bot under the tree at Christmas.

We expect Musk to unveil it Something On Fridays (at least something more than just a dancing guy in a spandex suit). But what are the main features that might make or break the Tesla bot in the future?

The robotics scientists say it certainly wouldn’t be surprising if the prototype was able to walk. “Building a moving robot is a relatively well-known problem, and companies like Boston Dynamics have done it well,” said roboticist Henrik Christensen of the University of California, San Diego. the edge. “Digit from Agility Robotics is another example.”

Walking won’t be a surprise – solving a Rubik’s Cube will be

A prototype Tesla Bot might also be able to pick up and move objects around the stage. “I would expect to see a robot that is able to move some loads from one point to another,” says Jonathan Aitken, a roboticist and teacher at the University of Sheffield in the UK.

However, the real test will be manual dexterity – how well the robot can handle objects in an unstructured environment. this is It will be the skill that will allow it to take on the human workload in Tesla’s factories, Musk has promised, and will distinguish it from the current generation of industrial robots. These bots are very good at moving objects quickly and accurately but only when their workspace is preset.

The robotic snake is on display at the Dana Center at the Science Museum

a: hover]: text-black [&>a]: 63 . gray underline shade [&>a:hover]: shadow-underline-black text-grey-63″>Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

“I think if robots showed any degree of ingenuity at assembling live components on the manufacturing line — especially inside the car being assembled — that would get my attention,” Aitken says.

Jackson is more specific. What to look for in a demo: Does the hand interact with anything? Simple understanding is an advantage, [but] Holding hands is more difficult. An action such as putting a screw cap on the bottle would be impressive. The easiest thing ever is to shake hands with a person – not impressive at all; The person compensates for all the failures of the bot. Likewise, anything in which only the hand moves without contact with anything else is very simple and unimpressive, regardless of its “human-like” shape. If he’s simply waving hello, it’s a painful failure.”

Adds Aitken: “I’m somewhat concerned that what we’ll see will just be a system capable of connecting parts – at this point, I wouldn’t necessarily see the difference between it and a standard wheeled robot – and that to me would be a disappointment.”

The latest robots are on display at SoftBank Robot World 2017

a: hover]: text-black [&>a]: 63 . gray underline shade [&>a:hover]: shadow-underline-black text-grey-63″>Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

However, a good way to understand the Tesla Bot is to compare it to the latest bots out there. These are machines like Boston Dynamics’ Atlas – quite possibly the most advanced bipedal robot in existence, capable of dancing, flipping and jumping. But Atlas’ creators describe the robot as a research and development platform rather than a commercial prototype and compare the demo video to “a kind of designed routine, much like a skateboard or parkour video.”

Another recently revealed research bot is CyberOne, built by Chinese tech giant Xiaomi. This is a bipedal robot that looks a bit like Tesla’s Optimus prototype. But based on a demo in August, he’s only able to walk and wave. He can’t even grab things with his hands, which are simple gloves, not nimble fingers.

Despite this, Xiaomi is at least relatively transparent about its plans for CyberOne, describing the robot as “Code From Xiaomi’s dedication to embracing a technology ecosystem that “would”born For more application scenarios in other areas” (focusing on me). In other words: It’s not something you can buy for your grandparents in 10 years.

As for biped robots, you can buy them, though, there aren’t many of them. These include Digit, made by Agility Robotics, which went on sale in 2020 for an undisclosed six-figure amount. The figure moves at a top speed of 3.3 miles per hour, stands 5 feet 1 inch in height, weighs 99 pounds, and can carry loads of up to 40 pounds. You can see that it turns some boxes in the video below, but the company hasn’t revealed sales numbers or whether the device is actually being rolled out of research and development.

All of this means that Musk’s promises to the Tesla Bot so far outstrip what companies working in the field for many years have been able to produce. If the Tesla Bot is revealed on Friday, be sure to watch it closely and ask yourself: What am I seeing here, a tech show or a theater show?

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