Tesla’s ‘AI Day’ brought a huge announcement that the electric vehicle company would use its expertise and resources developed for a full self-driving vehicle to build an autonomous humanoid robot. This is mind-blowing news but shouldn’t really be unexpected from a company whose interests range from cars to rooftops and all of the way to Mars missions. While the Tesla Bot exists primarily on paper at the moment, CEO Elon Musk divulged several details and specifications about the design of the robot.
The first principles of Tesla’s robot will be to work within a world built by humans and for humans, which is why it will be a humanoid robot, matching most human characteristics, including having a head, two arms, each ending in a hand with fingers, a torso and two legs with feet. The company says the robot will be designed to be friendly and helpful. It’s said to be designed to replace humans doing dangerous, repetitive, and boring tasks. Elon Musk has been quite vocal about the dangers posed by artificial intelligence (AI) and feels an urgent need to develop the concept properly. By advancing AI and humanoid robotics technology, Tesla will be able to more effectively shape its future, or at least that’s the idea.
Tesla’s concept, revealed during its AI Day event, is to make its Tesla Bot as similar to humans as possible, while still being slower and weaker, to ensure human safety. Height will be approximately 5 feet 8 inches, with a weight of 125 pounds. The robot’s travel speed will be about 5 miles per hour, which is generally considered a jogging pace for a human, while running or sprinting is much faster, meaning a human will be able to get out of the way if something goes wrong with a Tesla Bot. The robot is meant to be strong enough to do significant work, yet pose no threat to a human. It will be built to reliably carry up to 45 pounds of weight and deadlift 150 pounds. With arms extended the lifting capacity will be only 10 pounds. A human will be able to overpower a robot if some accident or malfunction ever creates the need to do so.
Tesla’s technical details annotation revealed that the face will include a screen so the robot can display useful information. The body will be constructed of lightweight yet durable materials and contain a total of 40 electromechanical actuators serving as joints and muscles for movement. A tight cluster of 12 actuators will be placed in the hands, with 12 more in the arms at the elbows and shoulders, 12 in the legs, 2 to bend the torso, and 2 to manipulate the neck. The feet will help with balancing and will use force feedback sensing. The artificial intelligence (AI) for Tesla’s humanoid robot will be quite similar but more advanced than that of a Tesla automobile. It will use autopilot cameras in the head and the torso will contain the full “autopilot” computer. Movement will be trained using Tesla’s new Dojo supercomputer. Its neural networks will, of course, use Tesla’s advanced neural planning to make decisions in a way that will be quite similar to a self-driving car. Musk described its self-driving computer and cars as synthetic animals, designed to see and learn in the way that animals do. The Tesla Bot will be similar but in the shape of a bipedal animal.
There are still plenty of questions left unanswered about the Tesla Bot and much of the information will be in flux even within Tesla’s headquarters as this is just a very early preview of what might be coming in the future. The robot rendering has a very human-like shape which presents a challenge in itself since battery space would be quite limited. In order to be useful, a Tesla Bot will need to be able to operate for at least a few hours between charges. Beyond operating the limbs which could take significant energy, the battery would have to power its high-performance computer. It will be interesting to see how Tesla handles the various challenges on the road to releasing a general-purpose humanoid robot.