Monday, December 5, 2022
Home TECH Tesla presents a real mechanical prototype of its Optimus robot

Tesla presents a real mechanical prototype of its Optimus robot

meIt seems like only yesterday that Elon Musk brought a worker in a spandex suit onto the stage at Tesla AI Day 2021 and told us he was a robot, or at least he probably would be eventually. In the intervening 13 months, the company has apparently been hard at work, replacing the soft parts of what the crowd saw on stage with the proper electronics and mechanization. At this year’s AI Day on Friday, Tesla unveiled the next version of its Optimus robotics platform, and, well, at least there’s still no one inside?


Tesla CEO Elon Musk introduced the “first” Optimus (again, a skinny guy in a leotard, not an actual machine) in August of last year and, true to his nature, proceeded to make a series of claims each time. more incredible about the future of the platform. capabilities, as well as how Cybertruck will have unbreakable windows. As Musk explained at the time, the Optimus will operate an AI similar to the company’s autopilot system (the one that keeps chasing stationary ambulances) and will be able to work safely with humans without extensive prior training.

Additionally, the Tesla Bot would understand complex verbal commands, Musk assured the assembled crowd, it would have “human-level hands,” could move at 5 MPH and carry up to 45 pounds despite standing less than 6 feet tall and weighing 125 pounds. Most unbelievably, Tesla would have a working prototype for all of that by 2022, which brings us to today.

production tesla robot


To kick off the event, CEO Elon Musk was almost immediately joined onstage by an early development platform prototype of the robot – the first time one of the test units walked without the aid of an umbilical strap. Lacking exterior panels to reveal the Tesla-designed actuators within, the robot moved at a hesitant, lumbering pace, not unlike early Asimos and certainly a far cry from the deft acrobatics Boston Robotics’ Atlas exhibits.

tesla robot


The Tesla team also released a more fleshed-out, but still tethered, iteration shown above. “It wasn’t quite ready to walk,” Musk said, “but I think we will walk in a few weeks. We wanted to show you the robot which is actually very close to what’s going into production.”

tesla robot


“Our goal is to make a useful humanoid robot as quickly as possible,” Musk said. “And we’ve also designed it using the same discipline that we use in car design, which is… to make the robot at high volume at low cost with higher reliability.” He estimates that they could cost less than $20,000 when built in volume.

The Optimus will be equipped with a 2.3 kWh battery pack that integrates the various power control systems on a single printed circuit board. That should be enough to get the robot through a full day of work, according to the Tesla engineering team who joined Musk on stage during the event.

tesla robot


“Humans are also pretty efficient at some things, but not so efficient at other times,” explained Lizzie Miskovetz, a senior mechanical design engineer at Tesla and a member of the engineering team. While humans can sustain themselves on small amounts of food, we can’t stop our metabolism when we’re not working.

“On the robot platform, what we’re going to do is minimize that. Idle power consumption, reduce that as much as possible,” he continued. The team also plans to remove as much complexity and mass as possible from the robot’s arms and legs. “We are going to reduce our number of parts and our energy consumption of all possible elements. We’re going to do things like reduce sensing and wiring in our limbs,” Miskovetz said.

tesla robot


In addition, expensive and heavy materials will be replaced by plastics that compensate for slight losses in stiffness with greater weight savings. “We transferred most of our design experience from the car to the robot,” said Milan Kovac, Tesla’s director of autopilot software engineering.

To allow Optimus to move around in real-world situations, “we want to take advantage of both the autopilot hardware and the software for the humanoid platform, but because it’s different in requirements and information factor,” Miskovetz said. “It’s going to do everything a human brain does: process vision data, make split-second decisions based on multiple sensory inputs, and also communicate,” thanks to integrated Wi-Fi and cellular radios.

“The human hand has the ability to move at 300 degrees per second, like tens of thousands of touch sensors. It has the ability to grasp and manipulate almost every object in our daily lives,” Kovac said. “We are inspired by biology. [Optimus hands] have five fingers and an opposable thumb. Our fingers are powered by metallic tendons that are both flexible and strong because the ability to complete a wide opening captures power while also optimizing for precision, gripping small, thin and delicate objects.”

tesla robot


Each hand will offer 11 degrees of freedom derived from its six dedicated actuators, as well as “complex mechanisms that allow the hand to adapt to objects being grasped.” Kovac said. “Us [also] have a non-retroactive finger drive. This gripping mechanism allows us to hold and carry objects without having to turn on the hand motors.”

“We’re starting to have something usable,” Kovac concluded, “but it’s far from useful. We still have a long and exciting road ahead of us.” Tesla engineering plans to get the production iteration locked down and walking untethered in the coming weeks, then start exploring more real-world applications and tangible use cases that Optimus could end up in.

“After seeing what we’ve shown tonight,” Kovac said. “I’m pretty sure we can do this in the next few months or years and maybe make this product a reality and change the whole economy.”

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