A prototype of the Tesla robot has finally arrived and dear God it is just as ridiculous as we’d hoped.
Tesla has been promising to unveil a “humanoid” robot—a bipedal machine that can walk, move, and do stuff like a person—since August, 2021. On Friday, the company finally revealed the long-awaited contraption, ushering it onto a stage at company headquarters in Palo Alto during its annual AI Day. According to Tesla ad copy, Optimus (you know, like the transformer) will someday help out everyday Americans with their household chores and will be an affordable product that most people can buy.
Is it there yet? No. Definitely not. But, you know, it’s also not quite the total joke that some of us may have been expecting.
Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO/resident mad scientist/bullshit artist, promised Friday that Optimus could actually do a lot more than what was visible during the company’s presentation—which, admittedly, wasn’t very much. “The robot can actually do a lot more than we just showed you,” Musk quipped. “We just didn’t want it to fall on its face.”
When Tesla first announced plans for Optimus at last year’s AI Day, Musk infamously forced some unfortunate soul to don an ugly spandex suit and trot around onstage to demonstrate what the bot would eventually look like. “The Tesla bot will be real,” he claimed, as people laughed at him. Since then, Musk has made a lot of wild allegations about what this contraption will look like and how it will function: It will stand 5 feet 8 inches tall! It will totally re-structure the nature of labor in society! It will mow your lawn for you!
Well, while we can’t comment on most of that, what we can say is the thing that was revealed Friday was—at the very least—not a person in a suit.
The company actually showed off two iterations of its creation. The first was something dubbed Bumble C, a robot that actually walked—or, more accurately, staggered—around the stage and occasionally waved at the audience. Musk said that this version of the robot was a “rough development robot” that will eventually mature into what Optimus is meant to be. A video played during the event purported to show this prototype lifting a box and also trying to water a house plant.
The second iteration was a supposedly more developed version of the robot, with additional hardware and plating. Ironically, this advanced version could not really walk at all. To the naked eye, it looked basically like a mannequin with a stick up its butt (the stick was to help keep its torso erect, I think). The thing drunkenly tottered around the stage, guided and supported by a chorus of worried Tesla staff, who looked at all times like they were terrified that it would face plant.
Musk, to his credit, seemed to be having fun with the whole thing. “As you know, last year it was just a person in a robot suit but, uh, we’ve come a long away and compared to that it’s going to be very impressive,” he said, at the beginning of the evening.
The rest of the night was taken up by presentations given by Tesla engineers, who explained much of the science behind the robot.
All of this obviously inspires a lot of questions: For one thing, how long until it, like, works? Also, anybody want to hazard a guess as to how much worse of a robot Optimus is next to Xiaomi’s CyberOne? We would ask Tesla but the company dissolved its PR office two years ago. We have a feeling we’ll learn more soon enough, though. In fact, it’s a guarantee we’ll get some relevant Elon tweets before too long.