Earlier this week, Tesla unveiled Optimus Gen-2, the 2nd generation of the Tesla Bot. This bipedal robot has the ability to walk independently, dance, and manipulate physical objects.
According to Optimus’ official bio, the robot is “a general purpose, bi-pedal, humanoid robot capable of performing tasks that are unsafe, repetitive or boring.”
To replicate human movement, Optimus Gen-2 features actuators-integrated electronics and sensors, hands with 11 degrees of freedom (DoF), a 2 DoF actuated neck, torque sensing feet, tactile finger sensors, and an end-to-end trained neural network.
Overall, Optimus Gen-2 has significantly improved since the first version was unveiled at the Tesla 2022 AI Day. For instance, the Gen-2 version improves balance and movement, walks 30% faster, weighs 10 kg less, and features greater hand mobility.
From Bumblebee to Optimus Gen-2
This latest announcement highlights that Optimus Gen-2 has come a long way from the initial prototypes of Optimus and Bumblebee unveiled at Tesla AI Day 2022. Back then, Optimus couldn’t walk, while Bumblebee could walk and conduct basic tasks like manipulating boxes and watering plants.
While these initial prototypes received a lukewarm reception from some critics at the time, Optimus Gen-2’s capabilities have expanded significantly quickly.
In the latest promotional footage shared by Tesla CEO Elon Musk via a post on X (formerly Twitter), Optimus Gen-2 can be seen walking, dancing to music, performing squat thrusts, and perhaps most impressively, picking up and moving an egg without breaking the shell.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 13, 2023
Yet even though Optimus’ capabilities are growing, the official release date and pricing have yet to be confirmed, though Musk has stated that the robot will cost “much less than $20,000” to purchase once it is released.
Tesla is also currently recruiting new talent to help drive the development of the bot, with the official website noting, “We’re hiring deep learning, computer vision, motion planning, controls, mechanical and general software engineers to solve some of our hardest engineering challenges.”
Where Does Optimus Gen-2 Belong in the Robotics Market?
Tesla’s Optimus Gen-2 falls within the humanoid robotics market, which Markets and Markets research estimates will grow significantly from a value of $1.8 billion in 2023 to $13.8 billion by 2028.
Although the market is in its early stages, beyond its futuristic aesthetic, one of the main selling points of Optimus so far has been its focus on general-purpose human mobility, particularly when it comes to hand dexterity.
For example, using 11 DoF and tactile sensors on Optimus’ fingers enables the robot to move physical devices with a high degree of care.
That being said, Sanctuary AI’s general-purpose Phoenix robot features hands with 20 degrees of freedom with the ability to pick up, place, sort, and stack objects with demonstrations showing the ability to scan items, solder, place objects in a plastic bag, and serve food.
This approach is distinct from other leading innovators in the space, like Boston Dynamics, who’ve produced humanoid robots like Atlas, which focus on explosive movement.
Atlas stands 1.5m high and weighs 89kg. It not only has the ability to lift, carry, and throw objects, but it can navigate its environment with a high level of mobility via parkour or dance like a human.
At the same time, Optimus Gen-2 also stands out from advanced humanoid robots like Hanson Robotics’ Sophia and Engineered Arts’ Ameca, which are primarily designed to replicate human facial expressions and to interact with human beings in face-to-face scenarios.
In addition, Musk has also stated that Tesla’s work on Optimus is differentiated due to its focus on creating a robot that can be manufactured at scale rather than as a one-off research project.
Optimus still has a long way to go in development, but Tesla’s initial demonstrations of the 2nd generation’s capabilities are the most promising to date.
When considering the impressive capabilities demonstrated by cutting-edge robots like Sophia and Atlas, it is clear there is a growing ecosystem of disruptive robotics solutions, which have the potential to be a powerful force multiplier for AI as a technology.