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News, Technology

Robots at Home: Optimus and Bumble C

Kenton Reynolds

Kenton Reynolds, Writer
@uxconnections

Following Tesla’s recent update on their humanoid robot, this series will take a look at the state of domestic robots and how close we are to robots being a common feature of the home. First of all we focus on the Tesla Bot.

Tesla AI Day 2022 brought about the update one year on from the concept launch of Tesla Bot. The launch last year was slightly underwhelming with the display bot that was brought out to perform a dance admittedly being a woman wearing an outfit and dancing robotically. However, a year on, Musk certainly had a lot more to show.

 

Firstly we saw Bumble C, the development and testing bot that Tesla have been using to work towards a consumer level version. The humanoid bot, which stood at 6’1, was able to walk around the stage and perform a few dance moves for those in attendance. We were informed that this was the robots first time walking completely unaided, showing Tesla’s confidence in its ability to support itself and perform motor tasks. We then saw a series of videos that demonstrate Bumble C’s dexterity, strength and usefulness. From weaving its hand through the small gap of a watering can in order to feed the plants, to finding its way through a busy office and successfully deliver a parcel. 

Driven by Tesla’s autonomous driving software, Bumble C’s capability was clearly exciting however it was not too impressive to look at with all of its wiring completely exposed; akin to a Phantom Menace C-3PO. However, these concerns were solved when we found out that this was simply a trial bot and the version that is much closer to what Musk will be mass producing in the near future made an appearance. Optimus emerged from behind the sliding curtains as a more Tesla-esque product. Its chassis may have been similar to Bumble C but the intricate wiring was encased by sleek silver plating to create a futuristic look.

Tesla then went into detail regarding the specs and abilities of Optimus which is the first bot to be fully Tesla designed from actuators to battery pack. The degrees of freedom on this bot are immediately impressive with all fingers moving completely independently and opposable thumbs which are all driven by flexible, strong metallic tendons. Inbuilt sensors for the hand also allow for sensory data from touch. The actuators creating all of this movement are robust too, able to take the weight of a 0.5 tonne grand piano. The torso consists of a 2.3 kWh battery back with all electronics integrated into a single pcb within the pack. The Bot Brain is a chip that carries out all calculations and processing including vision data, split second decisions, sensory inputs and communications. Wi-Fi, Audio and Security are all also embedded into the Bot Brain.

Unfortunately, Optimus was still a few weeks from walking at the AI Day, however Musk was confident it would achieve even more than Bumble C. A similar product to Optimus is expected to be put in mass production with Musk predicting the sale of millions of units for under $20,000 each. The Tesla Bot will continue to adapt and improve to the needs of people over the upcoming year but at the heart of all developments will be keeping the human form and human likeness.

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