Elon Musk’s Tesla Bot is a joke or a reality? Tesla will build a humanoid robot called Tesla Bot, CEO Elon Musk said on Thursday.
“We’re also good at sensors and batteries, and we’ll probably have a prototype next year that looks like this,” Musk said shortly after an actor in a bodysuit designed to look like the Tesla robot gyrated wildly on stage. He remarked that the actor was not a real robot, but “the Tesla Bot will be real.”
The announcement was made as part of AI Day, a series of tech talks hosted by Tesla in California to recruit machine learning talent.
Elon Musk’s Tesla Bot is not a joke
When it comes to presentations, Elon Musk rarely disappoints his audience. As a matter of fact, This was certainly the case with this week’s AI Day. He made various announcements, such as for a new 7 nm semiconductor, the Dojo supercomputer, and innovations with computer vision. There were also some deep dives into deep learning.
But perhaps the most interesting announcement was the Tesla Bot. This is on par with what we usually see in dazzling sci-fi movies. Yes, Musk apparently is building a humanoid robot. It will be five feet, eight inches tall, weigh 125 pounds, and have human-like hands. So what will she/he/it do? Basically, the Tesla Bot will be our cyber slave, handling tedious and repetitive tasks. For example, you can tell it to go to Chipotle and get a burrito—and it will happen.
Sounds pretty good, huh? Definitely.
But then again, Musk has made some ambitious claims that have not been realized (remember his promises of fully autonomous cars or his robot taxi service?) And this could easily be the case again.
The funny thing is that Musk has a history of saying that AI could run amok and become an existential threat to humanity. But, hey, he once tweeted: “If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk(y) than North Korea.”
But somehow, Musk thinks his version of AI will be just fine. So we have to trust him on this one, regardless of the federal preliminary investigation of Tesla’s Autopilot and the various lawsuits. Actually, even if the Tesla Bot somehow turns hostile, it will only be able to run five miles an hour.
Elon Musk: The king of a radical ideas.
The future is automated. Elon Musk, who has always been known for his radical ideas, like starting his own EVM company, sending a car to space, and trying to manipulate cryptocurrency markets, is perhaps on the pathway to create what could perhaps turn into a ‘The Terminator’ movie scenario. CEO Musk on Thursday said the electric automaker would probably launch a “Tesla Bot” humanoid robot prototype next year, designed for dangerous, repetitive, or boring work that people don’t like to do.
Elon Musk now wants to make physical work optional.
Musk said Thursday he would have an initial androgynous “Tesla Bot” prototype by next year.
“Tesla is arguably the world’s biggest robotics company because cars are semi-sentient robots on wheels,” he said. “It makes sense to put that into a humanoid form.”
Speaking at Tesla’s AI Day event, the billionaire entrepreneur said the robot, which stands around five foot eight inches tall, would be able to handle jobs from attaching bolts to cars with a wrench or picking up groceries at stores. The robot would have “profound implications for the economy,” Musk said, addressing a labor shortage. He said it was important to make the machine not “super-expensive.”
After a dense presentation about the undeniably impressive work, Tesla is doing with AI, the company’s self-anointed Technoking, Elon Musk, capped the evening by bringing out a dancer in a spandex suit. Behold, said Musk: my Tesla Bot.
The dancer in the suit, he said, was the model for a new humanoid robot Tesla will produce shortly. After the dubstep and applause had faded, the vaguest of briefing slides promised that the Tesla Bot will stand five feet, eight inches (1.7m), weigh 125 pounds (56kg), have “human-level hands,” and eliminate “dangerous, repetitive, boring tasks.”
Elon Musk’s Robot is identical to him
Musk said that building a human-replacement robot — something no company in the world is close to achieving — was a logical step forward from Tesla’s work developing self-driving cars. “Our cars are semi-sentient robots on wheels,” he said. “It makes sense to put that onto a humanoid form. We’re also quite good at sensors and batteries and actuators, so we think we’ll probably have a prototype sometime next year that basically looks like this.”
Even by Musk’s standards, it was a bizarre and brilliant bit of tomfoolery: a multipurpose sideshow that trolled Tesla skeptics fed the fans, ginned up the share price, and created some eye-catching headlines. The latter is particularly important in a week when most Tesla news has focused on a federal investigation into the company’s Autopilot software to crash into parked emergency vehicles. Forget about all that, says Musk, look at the person in the spandex suit! Next year, it’ll be a real robot, I promise.
Do you believe him? Should you believe him? I won’t answer that for you, but I want to restate the facts. Elon Musk got up on stage last night and promised that Tesla, a company whose driver-assist software cannot reliably avoid parked ambulances, would soon build a fully functioning humanoid robot.
Musk said that the machine would be able to follow human instructions intuitively, responding correctly to commands like “please go to a store and get me the following groceries.” He outlined these scenarios and then said: “Yeah, I think we can do that.” This was minutes after he’d been ushered away from the best demo of the Tesla Bot available: a dancer in a spandex suit. If nothing else, you have to admire the chutzpah.
Carl Berry, a lecturer in robotics engineering at the UK’s University of Central Lancashire, put things to me in less uncertain terms: “[Calling it] horse shit sounds generous, frankly. I’m not saying that he shouldn’t be researching this, but it’s the usual overblown hype.” Berry stressed that deploying robotics and AI in manufacturing usually required making the simplest machine possible: not the most complex.
“I’m not saying Tesla researching this stuff isn’t a good thing,” he said, “but between them and companies like Boston Dynamics, they leave the public with unrealistic expectations of what robotics is currently capable of or will be for many years.”
The Bottom Line
The Tesla Bot really reminded me of Sophia: the mechanical chatbot that’s appeared on chat shows and magazine covers. Unfortunately, Sophia relies on misdirection to fool audiences and is a regular target of AI experts’ scorn. But it also has a job to do.
As one of the robot’s creators, Ben Goertzel, told in 2017, Sophia works by priming our imagination, encouraging us to fool ourselves into thinking the future is nearer than the evidence suggests. In the process, the robot generates funding and news coverage for its makers.
“If I tell people I’m using probabilistic logic to do reasoning on how best to prune the backward chaining inference trees that arise in our logic engine, they have no idea what I’m talking about,” said Goertzel. “But if I show them a beautiful smiling robot face, then they get the feeling that AGI may indeed be nearby and viable.”
That feeling is what Musk wants to inculcate in his audience, be they investors or otherwise. His twist on the Sophia strategy is that he doesn’t even need a simulacrum of a robot to sell the dream. All he needs is a dancer in a spandex suit. Now that’s innovation.