Elon Musk is facing skeptics as Tesla prepares to unveil the Optimus robot. – Democrat Blog

Robotic arms assemble Tesla Model S sedans at the company’s plant in California.

San Francisco:

Tesla CEO Elon Musk blamed an over-reliance on factory robots for throwing the electric car maker into “production hell” four years ago, saying humans are better suited for certain tasks.

My God, how times have changed.

Musk’s Texas-based company now has ambitious plans to deploy thousands of humanoid robots, known as the Tesla Bot or Optimus, in its factories and possibly millions worldwide, according to job postings. There is a growing buzz at the company as Tesla holds more and more internal robot meetings, according to a person familiar with the matter.

In the longer term, Mr. Musk said in a TED Talk that robots could be used in homes, cook dinner, mow the lawn and care for the elderly, and even become a kind of sex partner, “buddy” or “catgirl.”

Mr. Musk says the robot business could eventually be worth more than Tesla’s car revenue, and Mr. Musk is now unveiling a vision for the company that goes way beyond building autonomous electric vehicles.

On his “AI Day” on Sept. 30, Musk said Tesla would unveil a prototype of his Project Optimus, a nod to the powerful and benevolent leader of the Autobots in the Transformers series. Production could start next year, he said.

Tesla is skeptical about its ability to showcase technological advances that justify spending on “general purpose” robots in factories, homes and elsewhere, according to robotics experts, investors and analysts interviewed by Reuters.

Tesla already uses hundreds of robots designed to perform specific tasks in the production of its vehicles.

Humanoid robots have been developed for decades by Honda Motor Co and the Boston Dynamics division of Hyundai Motor Co. Like self-driving cars, robots struggle to cope with unpredictable situations.

“Self-driving cars actually turned out to be not as easy as we thought. It’s the same with humanoid robots,” Sean Azimi, head of NASA’s Flexible Robotics Group, told Reuters.

“If something unexpected happens, it is very difficult to be flexible and resilient in the face of such changes.”

At the 2019 Autonomy event, Musk promised 1 million robot taxis by 2020, but has yet to deliver such a vehicle.

Experts say Musk’s robots may be able to showcase major capabilities at the event, but they’ll have a hard time impressing public opinion about robots capable of being on par with humans.

To be successful, Tesla will have to show robots that perform multiple unprogrammed actions, according to Nancy Cook, a professor of human systems engineering at Arizona State University. The data could boost Tesla shares, which are down 25% from their 2021 peak.

“If he can just make a robot walk or robots dance, that’s already done. It’s not that impressive,” she said.

Tesla did not respond to a Reuters request for comment, but Musk has proven doubters wrong in the past by resurrecting the electric car market and founding rocket company SpaceX, though some product launches have lagged behind.

Internal expertise

Initially, Optimus will perform boring or dangerous tasks, including moving parts around its factories, Musk said.

Musk acknowledged that humanoid robots are not intelligent enough to navigate the real world without clear instructions.

But he said Tesla could use its expertise in AI and key components to develop and mass-produce intelligent but less expensive humanoid robots.

Tesla is in the process of hiring people to work on bipedal humanoid robots, and there are about 20 positions open at Tesla Bot, including positions to develop key robot parts such as “actuators.”

“The code you write will eventually run on millions of humanoid robots around the world and will therefore meet high quality standards,” says one job posting.

Tesla has over 2 million vehicles on the road.

Jonathan Hurst, CTO of Agility Robotics, a humanoid robot company founded in 2015, said technology “is starting to change now. »

“Of course, an important indicator of success is whether they make money from it,” he told Reuters, referring to Tesla’s efforts to build humanoid robots.

human help

Analysts see more show than product. “This is all part of a strategy to distract people and give them the next shiny item to run after,” said Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst at Guidehouse Insights.

“Investors are not thrilled with Optimus,” said Gene Munster, managing partner at Loup Ventures, a venture capital firm that owns Tesla shares. “The likelihood that this will work at scale is very small,” he said, adding that it is “infinitely more difficult than self-driving cars.”

And then there is Musk’s own experience with robots in a factory.

During the production hell of 2018, Musk specifically pointed out problems with the “fluff bot,” a picking robot that couldn’t perform simple tasks that human hands can do—pick up bits of “fluff” and place them on batteries.

He said that the cost of maintaining a complex robot far exceeds the cost of hiring someone to assemble it.

The furry robot is “a fun example, but it shows that autonomy doesn’t always generalize well and that manipulating soft and furry stuff that isn’t as predictable as the hard part was a huge challenge,” said Aaron Johnson. professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

“Human hands are much better at this,” Musk said.

(This story has not been edited by the staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)

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