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Autobot assembled: Tesla unveils ‘Optimus’ robot with promise of sub-$US20,000 price

Autobot assembled: Tesla unveils ‘Optimus’ robot with promise of sub-$US20,000 price

A year after Tesla was mocked for its dancing ‘robot’, the company has now shown off a working prototype.

Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk have revealed an early prototype of the company’s humanoid robot, named Optimus.

During the ‘AI Day’ presentation – in which Tesla showed its progress on a handful of projects using artificial intelligence – Musk unveiled the robot, which he says will eventually be produced in the millions and sold for less than $US20,000 ($AU31,000) each.

Two versions were unveiled: a working prototype capable of walking and pickup boxes on its own, and a later version designed to look like the final product, but currently unable to walk – and which was wheeled out onto the stage by three humans.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done to refine Optimus and prove it,” Musk said, revealing the robot does not currently utilise artificial intelligence, and the presentation was the first time it had operated without a tether (to a computer or controller).

Musk later said he believed the robot was going to be “incredible” in five or 10 years’ time.

“We are trying to follow the goal of fastest path to a useful robot that can be made at volume,” he said.

The Tesla robot project was first announced in August 2021, when a person in a lycra body suit was brought on stage to dance for the audience – resulting in the company and Musk being ridiculed online for their efforts.

A year on, Tesla used the event to show off videos of the real Optimus robot performing basic tasks, such as carrying boxes and transferring metal components at the carmaker’s Californian factory.

A newer version of the Tesla robot was wheeled out on stage, which Musk claimed was a few weeks away from being able to walk.

Musk said the newer 73kg robot will use Tesla components, including a 2.3kWh battery pack.

However, it’s not the first time a car company has set out to develop a humanoid robot.

Honda first unveiled its Asimo robot in October 2000, following research and development by the company dating back to 1986.

Asimo’s last update was in 2011, when Honda gave it autonomous navigation – allowing the 130cm machine to avoid bumping into people while walking.

In March 2022, Honda announced Asimo was being retired after more than two decades of public appearances.

Ben Zachariah

Ben Zachariah is an experienced writer and motoring journalist from Melbourne, having worked in the automotive industry for more than 15 years. Ben was previously an interstate truck driver and completed his MBA in Finance in early 2021. He is considered an expert in the area of classic car investment.

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