By Mike Knight

Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk has introduced a prototype humanoid named Optimus to attendees and the cameras at Tesla’s recent AI Day 2022 event.

Useful Humanoid Robot

Mr Musk told the audience that the idea behind Optimus was simply to “make a useful, humanoid robot as quickly as possible” and that Optimus has been “designed using the same discipline that they used in designing the car so that it’s possible to make the robot in high volume, at low cost, with high reliability.” 

Mr Musk also said that a humanoid robot of this kind “can help millions of people,” and could help to create “a future of abundance, a future where there is no poverty, where people you can have whatever you want in terms of products and services.” 

A Robot To Do What?

Mr Musk said that humanoid robots like Optimus could help transform civilisation, help solve the problem of how to make a machine that can replace a human, and to help us make the transition to a society in which robots did the work and people reaped the benefits. 

It is understood that the mass market versions of the Optimus robot will first be tested by carrying out jobs in Tesla’s car factories. 

Why, Really?

One of the main reasons for the idea to build a mass market robot using the same designs already used in Tesla cars and drawing upon Musk’s existing experience in AI and neural networks (from OpenAI In 2015) is to develop a future product for Tesla beyond car manufacture. Self-driving vehicles have, for example, not yet delivered, despite investment, testing, and promises over several years. As Mr Musk points out, a mass-produced version of the robot, priced at £17,900, could be ready in just three to five years and a robot business could be worth more than the car business. 

What Do The Critics Say?

Some critics of Mr Musk’s robot direction remain sceptical and have suggested that it may be better to stay focused on projects that more closely fit with Tesla’s core business of electric cars. 

Amazon’s Household Robot

It is not only Elon Musk’s vision to move into the world of helpful robots that will save us work. Amazon recently unveiled its ‘Astro’ two-wheeled robot, designed for use about the home. Among its other possible uses, Amazon has suggested that it may be good for helping to keep an eye on owners’ homes by recognising different people and sound an alarm / sending an alert if there are strangers or intruders.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

It is possible to see how a relatively affordable humanoid robot may be well placed to take over basic jobs that were designed for humans to do, and specialised robots already play an important role in many businesses. An AI robot that looks like a person adds another intriguing dimension and is a striking way for Musk to promote the futuristic image and forward-thinking view of Tesla’s (and his own) brand, thereby creating news and adding value.

The robot idea, however, could more simply represent a way for Tesla to move away from reliance upon (and make more money than) the car business while drawing upon many of their existing assets and core competencies.

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