Tesla's Optimus Robot Can Walk Now, And That's Just The Start

The world has received another oddly ominous yet interesting look at the humanoid robot Tesla is working on. When Optimus was first shown to the world, it wasn't actually a robot, but a human in a robot costume demonstrating what Tesla believed it could build. Fast forward to Tesla's 2022 AI Day, and Tesla's "rough development" robot was actually made of metal, plastic, and silicone. It walked awkwardly on stage and waved at the audience. The development model was built from third-party parts and actuators — it wasn't really what Tesla was going for. It also wasn't the subject of the big announcement.

An Optimus built from in-house parts was the real star of the show, but it wasn't as far on as the "rough development" build. It could wave at the crowd, but had to be pushed out on stage strapped to a trolley. Musk confirmed Tesla was developing its own parts for the robot, and said it was close to being able to walk. Its first steps were allegedly a few weeks away. Fast forward to Tesla's 2023 investor day, and we have another glimpse of Optimus. Or rather two of them, Optimi if you will. In a terrifying event that seems to be hinting at a Tesla Bot-based singularity, Optimus #1 picks up a robotic arm from a desk, wanders over, and holds it in place while Optimus #2 bolts it to the body of a third Optimus that is still being assembled. The Optimi then both look at a photo of themselves at work, before walking off toward the camera.

Optimus has come a long way in a short time

The glimpse of Optimus we've just seen at Tesla's 2023 investor day certainly seems far more advanced than what has been presented previously. If the video is to be believed, Tesla's independently-built humanoid robot can now walk short distances independently, carry an object at least the size of one of its arms, and use basic tools. Musk was quick to point out that while there was progress, the company was taking things one step at a time. "It's not doing parkour," he joked. Numerous actuators are used to help the robot move and balance. According to Musk, nothing in the real world was suited to the task — so Optimus is built with Tesla's own custom actuators.

Musk went on to claim that his company is "the most advanced in real-world AI," which is likely to be what powers Optimus' brain. The billionaire confirmed that the same AI that powers Tesla's cars will be used to make Optimus function. The AI is also capable of solving problems and learning, according to Musk. "It's not that useful to have a humanoid robot if you have to program every option," he pointed out. So it's possible the bots could be trained to perform a variety of roles once they're finally unleashed on the world.

Humanoid robots could be a game changer

Musk has high hopes for Optimus, and seems to wish the project would receive more attention. "It's probably the least understood part of what we're doing at Tesla," he complained during the event. Despite the apparent lack of understanding, humanoid robots like Optimus could have a huge impact on the world. Musk pointed out that GDP is based on the productivity of individual working people in a country, but if you can build a large number of robots to perform work, the world's economic growth should scale with it. It's also another way technology could make large numbers of people redundant. Musk talked about the possibility of a one-to-one ratio of robots to humans — or even more than that — becoming a reality one day in the future.

Despite the robots apparently being able to assemble other robots like them, the world may not end at the hands of one of Elon Musk's brain bursts. The billionaire, who has previously warned about the dangers of AI, seems to have implemented a number of safeguards into the design of the Tesla bot. It is only capable of moving at five miles per hour, deadlifting 150 pounds, carrying 45 pounds, and it weighs around 125 pounds. Despite the fact it can't feel pain, the average adult human should be capable of fighting off a Tesla bot should the machines decide to rise up. Or should at least be able to briskly walk away from one.