Tesla’s AI Day 2022 is just 17 hours away, scheduled for October 1 at 11:15 AM AEST and to get everyone even more excited for the event, the official Twitter account has posted a new video.
The video shows two robot hands animating through a range of motion in the fingers, to form the now famous heart from the event invite image. When the first image for AI Day 2 / 2022 was released, many were unsure if the picture was a 3D render or a photo of the hands from TeslaBot.
If you haven’t already, take a look at our AI Day 2022 expectations here.
The video is best viewed on full screen to see the detail of the hands. There are many, many components at work here to enable the hands to move like human hands and the smoothness at which they move is incredibly impressive. The actual metal looks more brushed than polished, but will ultimately be covered, so this is all about showing Tesla’s mechanical engineering, rather than the polished final consumer product.
The lighting effects are a nice touch, but the video confirms a couple of really important aspects of TeslaBot. Firstly Tesla’s ability to create a human-link physique that appears to fit within the design they showed at last year’s AI Day, just over a year ago. While this is just the hands and fingers in the video, it certainly provides excitement that we may be about to see an entire humanoid robot with this detail.
The second thing to note is how the range of motion between each of the joints in the fingers and thumbs reflects humans. We can see from the side-hinge on the thumbs that they will be able to move more than just the grasping motion shown in the video.
The ability to grasp an object is obviously a core competency any useful robot needs to have, but what’s not shown here is if the hands (and reset of TeslaBot) are able to understand objects in the real world, approximate the weight of the objects to carry them, or the strength required to hold and not damage it.
While I didn’t notice during the first look, upon closer inspection, it seems TeslaBot has softer, rubberised grips on the inside of the fingers, helping to answer how a hard metal object would hold objects without them sliding out from it’s grip.
Take a look at the video in the tweet below and let us know what you think in the comments.
If you haven’t already, make sure you set a reminder for AI Day 2022 on the YouTube stream below.
This year, investors are expecting a real tech demonstration of the robot, along with updates on Tesla’s progress developing self-driving technology that can turn the company’s existing electric vehicles into robotaxis.
Musk has been promising a truly self-driving Tesla since 2016 when he said a coast-to-coast demo would happen by the end of 2017. To-date the company has only released driver assistance systems that need to be constantly supervised by a human driver who remains attentive to the road and their car, ready to take over at any time.
When Musk originally floated the humanoid robot concept at AI Day 2021, Musk said of Optimus, “It should be able to, ‘please go to the store and get me the following groceries,’ that kind of thing.”
Later, Musk said that robots made by Tesla will one day be worth more than its cars, and that thousands of them would be put to work moving parts around the factories, where humans build cars and batteries.
During Tesla’s 2021 fourth-quarter earnings call, Musk remarked: “If you think about the economy– the foundation of the economy is labor. Capital equipment is distilled labor. So what happens if you don’t actually have a labor shortage? I’m not sure what an economy even means at that point. That’s what Optimus is about, so very important.”
Tesla has a mixed record with automation.
As Bernstein senior research analyst Toni Sacconaghi wrote in a September 30 note ahead of AI Day 2022, In 2018 Tesla “had mistakenly tried to hyper-automate its final assembly (i.e. putting parts into cars).” The result was that Musk soon admitted “excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake,” and “humans are underrated.”
Tesla brought more people back to its manufacturing and assembly lines after that, but Sacconaghi writes that today Tesla is over-automating its customer service. Tesla owners generally find it difficult to get in touch with individual sales and service reps at Tesla, and are steered to conduct all possible resolution of complaints through Tesla’s mobile app.
A long-time robotics engineer, Alexander Kernbaum, who now serves as interim director of robotics at the vaunted research and development non-profit SRI International, says whether Tesla impresses with its robotics update at AI Day or not, the company has the resources to develop something meaningful and has inspired new interest in the field.
However, Kernbaum notes, when it comes to creating a robot that can make a difference in an car assembly plant, there’s really no need for Tesla to develop a bi-pedal robot. “Mobile robots will find uses,” he explains, “But mobility should be as simple as possible for a factory environment meaning wheels would be the way to go, not legs.”
Robotic legs require a lot of power, for one thing, which would put strain on any battery Tesla develops for its robotics. Additionally, legged robots — like people — can trip and fall. Wheeled robots would not be as likely to tip over. The safety concern should be tantamount in a factory, Kernbaum suggests.
Kernbaum believes Tesla would be best-served to focus on robotic hands. He said, “Hands are like the ultimate multi-tool. Dexterity and in-hand object manipulation are the grand 10-year challenges that will have an obvious impact on all precision manufacturing and on everything really.”
AI Day 2022 will be the company’s first major event since former AI leader of Tesla Andrej Karpathy resigned. AI Day precedes Tesla’s third-quarter vehicle production and deliveries report which is expected within days.