As Elon Musk stood in the wings at Tesla Inc.’s AI day, a person dressed in a skintight white suit and grey space helmet did a jerky robot dance across the stage.
And with that, Musk flagged a move into a new realm of science-fiction: lifelike humanoid robots designed to take the drudgery out of everyday life.
The ‘Tesla Bot,’ a prototype of which should be available next year, is designed to eliminate “dangerous, repetitive and boring tasks,” like bending over to pick something up, or go to the store for groceries, Musk said. “Essentially the future of physical work will be a choice.”
“Tesla is arguably the world’s biggest robotic company,” Musk said. “Our cars are basically semi-sentient robots on wheels.”
The ‘Bot’ was the show stopper of the inaugural AI Day, which highlighted Tesla engineers giving highly technical presentations on the automaker’s autonomous driving functionality with a goal of recruiting talent to the Palo Alto, California-based company.
“Develop the next generation of automation, including a general purpose, bi-pedal, humanoid robot capable of performing tasks that are unsafe, repetitive or boring,” says a job posting on its site. “We’re seeking mechanical, electrical, controls and software engineers to help us leverage our AI expertise beyond our vehicle fleet.”
Musk has a long history of unveiling products that are mere prototypes –essentially selling a vision before it exists in reality. In November 2017, Tesla unveiled its Semi truck at a late night event near Los Angeles, but that vehicle has been pushed back until 2022 at the earliest, due, in part, to challenges making larger battery cells.
Tesla’s stated mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy, and a humanoid robot feels a bit like mission creep. Musk failed to outline how the robots would fit into the clean-energy mission.
Main Image: ZARLOONEY