Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, previously announced his plans on creating a humanoid robot during AI Day in August of last year. Having delayed this year’s event by a month, Musk finally reveals the progress of his humanoid robot — or rather humanoid robots, at the event held at a Tesla office in Palo Alto, California.
Starting with a playful jab at how he announced his plans on creating a humanoid robot last year, Elon Musk unveils Bumble C, the first of three humanoid robots Tesla has been working on. With no cranes, cables, and mechanical mechanisms, Bumble C walked forward and waved to the seated audience.
During the event, Musk, along with his employees, point out how this was the first time Bumble C has operated without any backup support or a tether. Albeit mechanically stiff in action, Bumble C was also able to impressively bust out a move by raising the roof.
To prove that Bumble C can do more than just walk and dance, Elon Musk plays a video of Bumble C operating inside a Tesla Office. As seen in the video, the humanoid robot is capable of carrying a box and picking up a watering can. The Tesla team reports that Bumble C has the same self-driving technology a Tesla car uses and has semi-off-the-shelf actuators to help operations.
While the Bumble C humanoid robot looks more robot and less human, the second humanoid robot Musk unveiled was the Optimus Bot. Although Musk was not able to fully demonstrate and debut the humanoid robot, he did show a different prototype that is fairly close to it — the Optimus Production Unit One. This third humanoid robot is perhaps the sleekest in design and is the most advanced.
Unlike the Bumble C, which could operate independently, the Optimus Production Unit One needed a stand and people to support it. Concerning mobility, the Optimus Production Unit One is expected to have more degrees of freedom that will allow the humanoid robot to move each finger independently and have opposable thumbs. With such a function, people can expect the Optimus Production Unit One to be more useful for humans when operating tools and be capable to perform actions that require precision grip.
Staying true to the vision of Elon Musk on Tesla’s humanoid robots, the unveiled robots during this year’s AI Day underwent a manipulation process that will allow them to function as naturally as possible, at least as natural as a humanoid robot can be.
The Tesla team shared the process broken down into two simple steps: first, Tesla will general a library of natural motion references through a human demonstration. Second, an online motion adaptation in retrospect to the current real-world situation will be done. In addition to this, motion capture will allow keyframe representation of the hands, elbows, and torsos, which will be adopted by the humanoid robot after a mapping system that uses inverse kinematics.
It was also announced during the event that Tesla is working on a Bot Brain that will allow their humanoid robots to process vision data, communicate through equipped wireless connectivity and audio support, and make split-second decisions based on multiple sensory inputs.
Although the humanoid robots unveiled in this year’s AI Day of Tesla are still quite far from the original vision that Musk has repeatedly announced, the progress that has been made in just a span of six to eight months is definitely impressive and due credit must be given to the team. As Elon Musk said, “Our goal is to make a useful humanoid robot as quickly as possible”.
If all three humanoid robots were only created in less than a year, imagine what Tesla will be able to present on the next AI Day. Perhaps we are not far from the day when Tesla’s robot business will be worth more than its cars.