Tesla Is Unlikely To Create Its Bot, And It Might Be Bad If It Could

In August 2021, Elon Musk announced that Tesla would be attempting to prototype a humanoid robot capable of human-like maneuverability and functions, dubbed Tesla Bot or Optimus. Nearly a year later and no additional information about the project has surfaced other than goals to have some manner of prototype to show during September's Tesla AI Day, and hopes to go into production by 2023. This announcement was determined to be unlikely and unfeasible by roboticists and tech industry professionals at the time and seems even less likely now with no proof of concept yet shown and the difficulties inherent to building a humanoid robot.

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When the Tesla Bot concepts were first shown, it was mentioned that Tesla planned to leverage the company's experience with its electric cars and self-driving artificial intelligence to make the machine possible. The concept art of Tesla Bot listed proposed power specifications and was shown to resemble the shape and proportions of a slim humanoid far more than other bipedal robot designs that have been in development for far longer. Such a design is likely impossible with modern technology, and if Tesla is somehow able to show a prototype at its event resembling the shape and proposed function of the concept art it could say some unsettling things about the company.

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It has long been reported by roboticists that humanoid robots, with flexible fingered hands that walk on two feet, are incredibly difficult to build and program because of how complex these systems are in human biology. The most successful robots usually don't resemble humans in the way they move because it's far easier to build and program robots with bird-like legs or claw-like hands than to copy the complexities of a human's skeletal, muscular, and nervous systems. Tesla's history with electric and self-driving cars likely will not help combat these issues, as the electric motors in their cars don't replicate the compact small-scale precision needed to actuate multi-jointed fingers or feet and the AI of their self-driving cars has no experience balancing a bipedal machine, navigating obstacles on legs, or controlling the precise motion and force output of multiple fingers. Tesla has possibly no unique advantage in being able to create its proposed Tesla Bot machine by September 30th any more effectively than any other team besides financial backing, and money cannot buy parts and programming that don't yet exist.

Tesla May Be Prioritizing Robots Over Prosthetic Limbs

Tesla Robots Optimus Group Of Five Tesla Bot

In the event that Tesla goes ahead with its AI Day on September 30th and shows a prototype robot with functional hands and feet that more closely resemble a human's than any other robot yet developed, it would reveal unsettling implications about the company's goals and practices. Roboticists are not the only group developing advanced robotic hands and feet, as the same technology can vastly improve the technology and quality of prosthetic limbs. The design and programming of these limbs alone would be easier to develop than an entire robot and the AI controlling it, so if Tesla was able to develop these sought-after limb designs and did not release any information about them, it would imply they have been intentionally not releasing them and holding back technology that could benefit people with disabilities.

Given the inherent difficulty of designing the proposed Tesla Bot, it seems unlikely Tesla will have much to show for this project in the coming months. Tesla AI Day has already been delayed once and Musk's documented habit of chasing hyperbolic trends does not give confidence in the company having made real progress in this field. Whatever Tesla is able to show on the day of its eventual presentation will certainly be met with a mix of emotions.

2022-08-06T11:00:59.000Z

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