CEO Elon Musk used Tesla’s ‘AI Day’ event to tout a humanoid robot the electric car maker intends to build.
The AI Day event is essentially a series of tech talks hosted by Tesla to recruit machine learning talent and excite investors about future technologies.
The event was recorded in this YouTube video, and Musk can be seen explaining how Tesla will build a humanoid robot called Tesla Bot (skip to the 2 hour and five minute mark).
The Tesla Bot will be designed to eliminate “dangerous, repetitive and boring tasks”, but Musk warned that that the robot “probably won’t work,” at least not to begin with.
In the video, Musk engaged in his typical showmanship when the Tesla Bot figure was shown off, but it turned out to be a human actor in a Telsa Bot suit who took to the stage and proceeded to dance and gyrate around in a very unrobotic manner.
Musk began his speech by pointing out that Tesla was essentially already the world’s biggest robotic company, given the level of automation in its cars.
“We’re also good at sensors and batteries and we’ll probably have a prototype next year that looks like this,” Musk said.
He confirmed that the Tesla Bot actor was not a real robot, but he insisted “the Tesla Bot will be real.”
The “friendly” Telsa Bot will measure 5.8” in height, and will weigh nearly 57kgs, with a carrying capacity of 20kgs.
It will have a screen instead of a face, and is designed so humans can run away from it (it can only run at 5 miles per hour) or people can overpower it.
If a humanoid robot works and can perform repetitive tasks that only humans can do today, Musk said, it has the chance to transform the world economy by driving labour costs down.
However, Musk warned that the robot “probably won’t work” at first.
“It’s intended to be friendly, of course, and navigate through a world of humans, and eliminate dangerous, repetitive and boring tasks,” Musk said.
Musk revealed that the robot is codenamed “Optimus,” and is based on the same chips and sensors that Tesla’s cars use for self-driving features.
“It should be able to, you know, please go to the store and get me the following groceries, that kind of thing,” Musk said.
Elon Musk’s labelling of the Tesla Bot as ‘friendly’ and designing it so it can overpowered by a human, is significant, considering his previous warnings about the dangers of AI and robotics, which was echoed by the likes of renowned physicist Dr Stephen Hawking and Microsoft’s Bill Gates.
Musk for example has previously tweeted that artificial intelligence could evolve to be “potentially more dangerous than nukes”.
In 2014, Elon Musk had stated: “With artificial intelligence we’re summoning the demon. You know those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram, and the holy water and he’s sure he can control the demon? Doesn’t work out.”
He even described AI as an “existential threat”.
In 2015 Musk set aside a $10 million cash pot to protect humanity from eventual extinction at the mechanical hands of robotic overlords.
The donation was to the Future of Life Institute (FLI), a non-profit advisory board dedicated to weighing up the potential of AI technology to benefit humanity.
In 2017 the British government was warned by a think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research, that robots and workplace automation must be carefully managed, if predictions of mass unemployment and economic disruption are to be avoided.