The age of the machines might come sooner than we thought. During Tesla’s AI Day, Elon Musk introduced to the world a humanoid robot, known as the Tesla Bot or Optimus for Transformers fans. According to Musk, the prototype is still only in the development stage. The bot touches all of the cyberpunk bells and whistles that any fan of science fiction would enjoy, like smooth angels, an overall human shape, and standing as a bipedal machine. On stage, the bot was able to walk around without assistance or mechanical support during its introduction.
Anyone familiar with the founder of SpaceX and Tesla knows that he is well-known for gambling big on the development of new and emerging technology. From their Starlink broadband internet service to reusable rockets used to reduce the costs of taking payloads into space, it’s unsurprising to see Musk touch his toes into the humanoid robot game.
This isn’t Elon Musk’s first venture into AI. The Tesla founder co-founded, and then later quit, OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research and development company that is best known for its DALL-E 2 AI-powered text-to-image generator and Playground, an API program for AI modeling. According to CNBC, Musk also touched on other AI developments at Tesla. One such hot item is self-driving vehicles powered by AI.
According to Musk during AI Day, there are now over 160,000 customers running the beta of self-driving vehicles, which is a massive leap from only 2,000 users the year prior. He went on to connect the technology behind self-driving cars and robotics, saying: ″We’re going to talk about the advancements in AI for Full Self-Driving, as well as how they apply more generally to real-world AI problems like a humanoid robot and even going beyond that. I think there’s some potential that what we’re doing here at Tesla could make a meaningful contribution to AGI [artificial general intelligence].”
In the past, the autopilot team at Tesla had to use manual data annotation to identify and describe objects in short video clips that were captured by Tesla vehicles. These labels would identify objects such as roads, lane markers, and even pedestrians. This was an important step for the development of this program as now it’s auto-labeling the data. This has allowed the team to train the neural networks. In turn, the systems soon were able to drive, with driver oversight, autonomously and navigate road hazards and changes by going through about half a million clips per day. But at the end of the pipeline, there is still human QA which finalizes all the data labels.
Musk went on to speak about how the Tesla Bot could “help millions of people” by reducing the scarcity of resources and providing “a future of abundance, a future where there is no poverty, where people you can have whatever you want in terms of products and services.” This would be interesting as the fears of robot-powered AI over the last ten years have focused on the possibility of replacing human workers without a plan on how to sustain them. It seems that the Tesla founder wants to continue his dream of a scarcity-free economic future, kin to Star Trek. Though the Tesla bot might not be of “Data” quality yet, it and Tesla’s pushing of the AI envelope could have interesting repercussions in the future.