Tesla AI Day, analysis and report of the event: the Optimus robot

Tesla held its second AI day on September 30, 2022 and like last year , when it was 2:00 in Italy. During what turned out to be a technical presentation , the company's CEO and his engineers provided specifics of the projects announced last year . In particular, the official presentation of a working and walking prototype of a humanoid robot Optimus. They later showed details of the Full Self Driving (FSD) system for full autonomous driving. Finally, the technical aspects of the Dojo supercomputer that will train the self-driving systems.

The protagonist of this year's Tesla AI Day: the optimus robot

The conference began with him, the absolute star of the event, the robot Optimus. Presented in disguise the previous year, Musk and Co. showed a real prototype at this event.
This time it is all "true": after announcing it, the screen opens, Optimus appears without connections and support cables, greets and walks. But then the robot withdraws and the screen shows what else it can do, this time with safety measures to prevent it from falling.

Bumlbe C, this is the name of the first prototype, in the video grabs a watering can, fixes a heavy package and helps in the work in a Tesla factory. It is special to see how he reconstructs the surrounding world in the same way as the proprietary autopilot system . Although still in development, Musk himself says the robot will be complete with original actuators and battery pack soon. Their intent was to show something that was as close as possible to what's going into production.

Engineers developed the prototype over six months, drawing inspiration in part from the human body. But trying to limit the disadvantages: for example, the goal is to reduce energy consumption when the robot is inactive.

How Optimus is made

In the central part of the torso houses the 2.3 kWh battery pack which, according to the manufacturers, should guarantee a day of operation. Its peculiarity is to have integrated all the electronic component in a single printed circuit board (PCB). Safe and efficient, it will leverage the Tesla production chain to be built.

Also in the torso is the central computer that will ensure the main functions "like the human brain". Connectivity is ensured by a Wi-Fi and an LTE module and there are supports for audio and security and protection . Both of the robot and of the people around it.

Tesla AI Day

One of the engineers underlines the comparison between the car and the robot where the latter however has 28 actuators that do not “know” their role a priori. To determine the optimal design of each of them, Tesla employees developed simulations for the measurement of torque and speed parameters . An optimization model then did the rest with the data collected by evaluating the excellent Pareto cost / mass of each actuator. Finally, the statistical analysis produced six unique actuator designs .

Justifying the fact that Optimus' hands are also close to the human aspect was simple: ergonomics and adaptability. With 6 actuators, 4 fingers and 1 opposable thumb, each hand is complete with strong, flexible metal tendons (11 degrees of freedom) .

The software

Tesla's efforts have focused on Optimus' motion control and vision / navigation system . In the same words of a member of staff: "Human beings take it for granted that it means walking and moving". But a robotic designer must study every step and every gesture to be performed to make a move correctly.

Here, too, Tesla conducted various simulations where, assigned a model of the robot and a trajectory planner, Optimus obtained information on how to move . However, the reality is much more complex and different from a computer simulation.

Tesla AI Day

So what to do to incorporate the obstacles that the real world presents in the software model? Their answer was to use sensors to also simulate the dynamics destabilization factors and obtain the real behavior .

For the manipulative side, we started from a “human demonstration” of the gestures that served to provide the keyframes necessary for the inverse kinematics. The process described then formed a library with which to work (assisted by a trajectory optimization system).

The optimus seen at Tesla AI Day, word to the experts

Many insiders have expressed their opinion on this, with different opinions on the Tesla robot.
Released on social media, their comments offer the most detailed and nuanced understanding outside of Tesla itself . One of their collections can be read on the IEEE Spectrum site which has obtained the publication permissions from the relative authors.

Many credit the extraordinary progress made by the Californian company in just 6 months, starting from a concept, practically from scratch. Although they have made something concrete and already working, they are still far from the glories of Atlas or even Asimo. Where the latter precedes Optimus by 20 years and the former has already experienced the same type of motion control.

Tesla from this point of view has not introduced anything new and striking but it could well exploit the potential of the community . And the fact that Tesla AI Day is also a recruitment event for anyone who wants to collaborate in the development of the project.

In any case, Musk's intentions, for the robotic community, are still excellent, considering that the whole operation will attract a lot of attention. This will help advance discoveries and technology in this area, committing resources, time and effort over the long term.

Tesla AI Day article, analysis and event report: the Optimus robot was written on: Tech CuE | Close-up Engineering .