Elon Musk unveiled his creation called the “Tesla Bot,” a humanoid robot that uses vehicle artificial intelligence to perform ordinary household chores at Tesla’s AI Day presentation on Thursday.
No functioning mockup of the robot has yet been made, however, forcing Musk to have a human who was dressed up to look like the robot perform on the stage.
Looking more than a little disconcerting, some people present referred to the robot as looking like “Slenderman,” the creepy supernatural character that first appeared as a meme.
Musk joked later after the impression he made that “It’s intended to be friendly.”
Tesla Bot “to do the work people would least like to do”
Using the same autonomous technology that is already employed in Tesla’s self-driving vehicles, the bot is meant to relieve humanity from the everyday, humdrum chores that take up our valuable time around the home.
Musk asked the audience in his presentation rhetorically “What is the work that people would least like to do?”
The robot (or the human dressed up like a robot) came as a surprise to the attendees and the press at the presentation, making its appearance while Musk spoke and slides depicting its development were shown to the audience.
The human-like, 5-foot-8-inch tall robot, which will weigh a trim 125 pounds, will be constructed from “lightweight materials,” according to Musk, although he didn’t specify exactly what these will be. The bot will be able to lift an impressive 45 pounds, he promised.
Humanoid robot will have a screen
His plans how call for giving the bot five fingers, but this feature could change, he added.
The robot’s head will be equipped with the same eight autopilot cameras that are now used by Tesla vehicles to create a picture of its environment. There will also be a screen on its “face” to display information that might be pertinent to the task it is taking on.
The entire robot will be driven by an internal system powered by Tesla’s own self-driving computer now used in its vehicles.
Musk is known for his grandiose ideas, which sometimes do succeed spectacularly– such as his team of astronauts’ recent visit to the edge of space in his SpaceX Dragon rocket — and sometimes do not.
His vaunted self-driving vehicles are still nowhere near ready to come on the mass market, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration still investigating the safety of their autonomous driving software.
In addition, two US Senators have asked the Federal Trade Commission to look into whether Tesla’s marketing of this software is deceptive to consumers.
Humans will be able to “Overpower” Tesla Bot
The new household help will use the same computer chip as Musk’s vehicles do.
The inventor told the audience that this new, slightly creepy household member will have to “navigate through a world built for humans.”
The robotic helpmate made a surprise appearance at the end of a 90-minute presentation on artificial intelligence upgrades involving Tesla’s electric vehicles.
One of these was the new supercomputer, which is tasked with training cars to navigate city streets without human oversight of any kind. Explaining his impetus to create the new robot, Musk told the audience “It makes sense to put that into humanoid form.”
Perhaps as a way to lessen the unease with which humans might view having an inanimate object running around their house, Musk was quick to allay these fears, saying that any human could outrun the robot to make sure that it wouldn’t be taking on any tasks it wasn’t supposed to.
Elon Musk: AI “The biggest risk we face as civilization”
Elon Musk assured the audience that it was easy for people to “overpower” the Tesla bot as it only will move at a sedate five miles per hour at most.
The presentation of the humanoid robot came as a surprise also because Musk has come out in the past about his concern over robots being used as weapons. He once famously called the misuse of artificial the “biggest risk we face as a civilization.”
After being questioned by reporters, Musk admitted “We should be worried about AI,” before adding, “What we’re trying to do here at Tesla is make useful AI that people love and is … unequivocally good.”
Musk stated on one of his informational slides that one of the reasons he went forward with the development of the new bots is that they would free us from performing “dangerous, repetitive, boring tasks.”
Perhaps most interestingly, in these Covid-plagued times, Musk gave as an example that going to the grocery store to pick up a few items might be one of the many household tasks that the new robots could do for us.
The machine could be instructed to “go to the store and get … the following groceries,” Musk stated.
Obviously, if these machines become reality — and if they are affordable and mass produced, which is questionable –they could indeed change the way we go about our daily lives, and even how work is done outside the home.
Already, robots construct some — although not all — of our vehicles, and these more human-like entities may, just as envisioned by science fiction writers for decades, perform many physical jobs that are shunned by many.
They could also, of course, upend the way our economies currently function. “This, I think, will be quite profound,” he said of the role his robot will play in the future. “Essentially, in the future, physical work will be a choice. If you want to do it, you can, but you won’t need to do it.”
As was obvious in Thursday’s presentation, there is no actual robot quite like this as of yet, and it is unknown exactly when Tesla’s creation may come on the market, although Musk promised that a prototype will most likely exist sometime next year.