Tesla is adapting its autonomous car technology to give Optimus abilities like walking safely or working in a factory.
Elon Musk on Friday showed off the latest version of a humanoid robot that the world’s richest man said could one day eliminate poverty.
The Optimus prototype on stage during Tesla’s annual AI Day presentation was mounted on a small platform. The robot, which remains a work in progress, waved to the audience and raised its knees.
“Our goal is to make a useful humanoid robot as quickly as possible,” billionaire tech pioneer Musk told an audience at an event in Silicon Valley.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Tesla is adapting its autonomous car technology to give Optimus capabilities such as walking safely or working in a factory, company engineers said during the presentation.
Another version of the robot, built from off-the-shelf components rather than Tesla-made parts like Optimus, slowly walked onto the stage, pumping its fists and briefly bucking its hips to the music as if dancing.
“The robot can actually do a lot more than what we just showed you, we just didn’t want it to fall on its face,” Musk joked.
Tesla is designing the Optimus robots to be produced at high speeds, which will push the price down to perhaps less than $20,000, Musk said.
“This means a future of abundance; a future where there is no poverty, a future where you can have whatever you want in terms of products and services,” Musk said.
“It’s really a fundamental transformation of civilization as we know it,” he said.
Musk, who once warned of artificial intelligence being a threat to humanity, said Tesla wants to make sure the transition to a society where robots do the work and humans reap the benefits is safe.
“We always want to be careful not to go down the Terminator route,” he warned, referring to the killer cyborg blockbuster, noting that Tesla is building in safety features including a stop button that cannot be tampered with.
He said Tesla will begin testing Optimus in factories, doing simple tasks like carrying parts, and that the general public should be able to purchase the robots in three to five years.
Musk argued that Tesla, as a publicly traded company, will be held accountable by its shareholders if they think it is not being socially responsible.
“It’s very important that I can’t just do what I want. Tesla’s structure is perfect for that.”
Musk was reprimanded by the Securities and Exchange Commission after he posted a tweet in 2018 saying he had raised funds to take Tesla private, but failed to provide evidence or file paperwork with the SEC.
Musk is now locked in a lawsuit with Twitter over his bid to end a $44 billion deal he struck to keep the messaging platform private.