Elon Musk Reveals Prototype Humanoid Tesla Robot at AI Day

The Tesla robot walks and waves, though CEO Elon Musk claims it has more advanced functions. Those weren’t shown on stage.

byChris Rosales|
Tesla News photo

Tesla announcements are always something worth watching, especially as the company aims to reinvent itself constantly with left-field half-innovations from Tesla CEO Elon Musk. At AI Day 2022 the automaker took another pivot and actually made a humanoid robot, as opposed to last year’s human wearing a suit. With an awkward walk onto the stage, the Tesla robot made its existence known.

In fairness to Tesla, the robot is a prototype and is clearly in early development. This isn’t the first humanoid robot to be built by an automaker, with Honda’s ASIMO being the most famous and legendary. ASIMO also had 20 years of development behind its incredibly impressive capabilities, though they were highly orchestrated feats of automation. Yet, Tesla is a company that promises forward-thinking innovation while having trouble delivering it on the ambitious timelines that Musk sets.

The presentation of the Tesla robot is peculiar. The robot had no advanced functions beyond walking and waving, and was very arthritic at doing either. Musk made big promises about the robot and stated it had more advanced functions while also downplaying its ability and completeness, saying that it was delicate and he didn’t want it to “fall on its face.” Musk also suggested that a flashy demonstration only projects that the robot doesn’t know how to navigate itself, though there is no evidence that the Tesla robot has any sort of intelligence. 

There was great detail and a shared spotlight in the presentation. The engineers of the robot had time to speak and go in-depth on the complication of making a walking robot work, which is sure to be gargantuan. Tesla does make incredibly questionable decisions about ethics and product, as do its owners, but the robot could almost be considered in earnest. The trouble is the why. 

Musk intends to sell the robot for $20,000. He is known for making promises that will almost certainly never be kept, like the fleet of Model 3 robotaxis that generate income for their owners, a $35,000 Model 3, or the release of a truly autonomous car. Musk envisions an assistant that can do tasks that are otherwise menial, that is functionally invisible, and very helpful. “Real use cases” were mentioned a lot. It still seems like an expensive project that could be another investor-hype vehicle. 

Yes, this is an early prototype. For that, the finer technical details can be examined correctly and perhaps more fairly. But the question remains: why build it at all? 

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