Tesla will branch out from building electric, self-driving cars to produce humanoid robots designed to “eliminate dangerous, repetitive, boring tasks” and respond to voice commands from their owners.
The robot, referred to as Optimus by those inside the company, will be 173 centimetres tall and weigh 57 kilograms. Its body will be powered by 40 electromechanical actuators and its face will feature a screen display.
Optimus will be able to carry a cargo of up to 20 kilograms, and Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk claims that a working prototype will be ready next year.
Speaking at the company’s AI Day event, designed to attract engineering and research talent to the company, Musk said that much of the technology in Tesla’s self-driving cars is applicable to or useful in creating humanoid robots.
“Tesla is arguably the world’s biggest robotics company because our cars are like semi-sentient robots on wheels,” he said. “It kind of makes sense to put that onto a humanoid form. We’re also quite good at sensors and batteries and actuators.”
Musk said the machine will be limited to a walking speed of 8 kilometres per hour and will be deliberately weak enough that most humans will be able to overpower it if needed. “You never know,” said Musk, who had suggested earlier in his presentation that artificial general intelligence – hypothetical AIs that could complete any task a human can perform – was the largest threat currently facing humanity.
The robot is still in development, but automation will make physical work a choice in the future, which will have profound implications for the economy and require universal basic income as government policy, said Musk. A human dancer inside a suit was presented at the event to give the audience a flavour of what to expect from the robot.
Tesla also announced an AI-optimised, custom computer chip called D1, which it is using to create a supercomputer called Dojo. This machine is intended to process vast amounts of camera and sensor data from Tesla cars and train the neural networks behind Tesla’s self-driving technology. These improvements and updates can then be sent out to cars around the world via the internet.