Elon Musk set the future of technology and robots with the new Optimus Robot that aims to appeal to the mass market with a $20,000 bot.

Elon Musk And Robotics

Any technology fans could not avoid last week’s AI Day from Tesla on Friday, the last day of September 2022. The mass producer of electric vehicles has brought out its Optimus robot, the first time it has demoed a working prototype that walked live on stage without a tether. the prospective price of or estimate is around $20,000, which, whilst may seem a lot to the layman, has probably set the pace for pricing in robotic development.

Mass Market Robotics with AI Platform

It is the very technology behind the robot and AI platform that makes Optimus stand out. Unlike other companies that are working on highly specific robotic devices, the distinguishing factor of Tesla’s robot is the AI platform that drives it. It is the same platform behind the FSD (Full Self Driving) service that enables Tesla cars and vehicles to navigate themselves without driver interaction. Tesla already has the sunk R&D costs, and by cleverly repurposing that generic platform in a different vehicle (a robot, not a car), they have leveraged much of the advanced Machine learning work that has gone into developing what is probably the most advanced driverless car on the planet.

From Cars at Scale to Robots at Scale?

Henry Ford wasn’t the innovator of the car, but he found a way to bring cars to the mass market. Such innovation shouldn’t be underestimated, for Ford truly made motoring affordable for the masses. Could Elon Musk make robots affordable for the masses? Sure, $20,000 may seem a significant amount, but for many factories that produce goods, the cost of human capital far outweighs the expenditure on a robot. Think of the cost per hour, health insurance, need for holidays, rest and even the inability of humans to cope with dangerous or harsh conditions, and you soon realise why robots could be an addictive proposition for many business owners.

Eventually, at scale, expect innovation from robotics to trickle down to end users. Just as the original owners of mobile phones needed them for particular reasons such as business and were prepared to pay a hefty sum for immediate connection, we now pretty much all walk around with a phone in our handbags or pockets and take it for granted. Just as Henry Ford built cars for the masses, Elon could potentially be making robots for the masses.

Re-engineering the complex into … simple

Tesla has used their prowess to ensure that the development of the robot’s components, actuators, motors and drives are designed specifically for the purpose of creating a robot with a massive range of potential uses. Perhaps one of the most staggering facts about the presentation is the sheer amount of engineering crossover from the manufacture of cars into the robotic domain. Care design and analysis have to be one of the more complex engineering challenges – imagine analysing a car crash – tesla’s engineers routinely do this in both silicon and with real cars. Of course, the point of being able to crunch massive simulations is that you don’t need to crunch a massive number of cars. Think crash-proof robots.

Optimus Robot From Tesla
Optimus Robot from Tesla. Unveiling of the new Tesla Robot at AI Day.

Not just design but manufacturing is one of Tesla’s greatest accomplishments. Its Giga factories are able to turn out a massive number of cars from input raw materials. Aluminium in one end and car bodies stamped out at the other. No surprise then that the manufacturing expertise of Tesla will go into making robots that are not just designed well for a task but designed in such a way they can be built easily and effectively. Might we see Giga factories for Robots?

During the presentation, it was suggested that the company might make thousands or even millions of robots, which means mass scale, and the potential implications go beyond the scale of this article in everything from economics to social structures and the very meaning of how we work.

Tesla just became a fully-fledged AI company

With a diverse product range that now includes robots, it’s clear that AI lives at the core of the company, and as a result of its need for FSD or Full Self Driving, the brain of vehicle platforms can be repurposed into the brain of the robot masses.

Hopefully, the news will be a rallying call for those interested in AI when they see a tangible future vision come to life. The hope is such developments will create a halo effect around Machine Learning. A recent article we wrote suggests that the whole field of Machine Learning and QML (Quantum Machine Learning) could take a boost from the developments at Tesla.

Watch the AI Day 2022 from Tesla. See for yourself how the Optimus robot has come out in the wash. Now they are building world-class expertise in AI. Could we expect Quantum Machine Leaning to join the arsenal?