Tesla layoffs, Musk’s most important new employee, Optimus Prime, is coming

In the world of upright walking robots, Amazon's Digit and Tesla's Optimus are about to go head-to-head.

Since the beginning of this year, severe inflation has occurred in the United States, the Federal Reserve has been increasing interest rate hikes, and more and more economists have predicted that an "economic recession" is coming. Recessions typically spur investment in automation. According to a McKinsey survey, nearly 70 percent of companies are accelerating investments in automation and artificial intelligence.

Bezos and Musk are always the frontrunners.

Strong duel

The "birth" of the two major robots started last year.

Robot maker Agility's Digit, a bipedal robot that raised $20 million in its first round, was tested at Ford Motor Company. Digit is mainly dry logistics. It has two arms and two legs, and it is no problem to walk and climb stairs. Its head is a lidar device, and the whole body can be easily assembled.

Dry logistics means that it can carry packages, unload trailers, walk back and forth, left and right, up and down slopes, traverse irregular terrain, turn around or squat.

Digit sold for $250,000 last year. Ford ordered three. Ford has adhered to the "I want it all" principle for many years, because they also bought Boston Dynamics' quadruped robot dog Spot, priced at $74,500. Spot is said to be roaming around the Ford workshop when he has nothing to do.

Amazon has a warehouse robot "human" for a long time, but it is not a bipedal walking model. Proteus is like a vacuum cleaner, Cardinal is a robotic arm. Agility was on the list this summer when Amazon announced a $1 billion investment in supply chain and logistics technology. Moreover, the latter has already received a second round of financing of $ 150 million in the spring.

Musk announced last summer that the Tesla robot would be available this year, before it was called Optimus. This name is a good one, car + man, is it not Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots in "Transformers".

“Tesla is the largest robotics company,” Musk said, “because our cars are semi-perceptive robots on wheels.” Just generalize the car’s self-driving capabilities and neural network learning capabilities, and you can make Humanoid robots come.

Musk introduced that the robot is 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighs 125 pounds, can carry 45 pounds of weight, and can pull 150 pounds deadlift and move at a speed of 5 miles per hour. He assured the audience that a human could absolutely control the robot – if necessary.

An Optimus prototype could be revealed around September 30, with production in 2023.

Each has its own division of labor

Amazon's investment in Agility is driven by an urgent need for automation.

The new crown epidemic, labor shortages caused by soaring wages, workplace injuries of warehouse workers and logistics workers, and supply chain delays all require robots to solve. Jonathan Hurst, CTO and founder of Agility, said robots could provide labor flexibility, allowing humans to do jobs that require creativity and judgment.

Compared to previous robots that could only perform a single task, Digit has the versatility to work for different jobs. In addition, the manufacturer promises that Digit will soon have "last mile" delivery capabilities, seemingly implying that robots are here to knock on doors.

As recently as April of this year, Amazon's first warehouse union fought for workers' rights. Therefore, it is "natural" that Bezos loves robots without thinking ability – they will not require the minimum respect and guarantee of survival like humans.

Similarly, Musk, who recently told employees to go back to the office quickly and not "idle" at home, is of course a capitalist who does not miss any "996" opportunities.

Although Optimus only released some hardware data and did not specify the specific use, it is also the life of "workers". But not for rough jobs, but for the tertiary industry – not only can you be a waiter in a restaurant or store, but also sing, dance, chat with others, or be a babysitter.

In addition, there are two other bipedal upright humanoid robots worthy of attention.

Ameca, a robot from British robotics company Engineered Arts, has also received a lot of attention recently. They are fully "humanoid" robots with lifelike faces and subtle expressions in order to interact and communicate with people. The company is accelerating the production of 500,000 "entertainment" humanoid robots, and the style of painting is suddenly "Blade Runner".

Boston Dynamics is also developing Atlas, a 5-foot, 190-pound bipedal humanoid robot designed for search and rescue with an impressive backflip stance.

new industrial relations

Consumer-oriented service robots have been discussed a lot. People often measure the code of conduct of robots from the perspective of morality and ethics.

But production-oriented industrial robots are rarely discussed. In the past, such robots were not "humans", but were more of an automated assembly line. Once they had a "human shape", the discussion turned to ethics, their working methods, work accidents, and the impact on human employees. Rarely involved.

The meaning of Digit is unique because it is both to B and to C. It not only works on the assembly line, but also faces consumers directly.

The research website Reveal has conducted an investigation into Amazon's working conditions. Research shows that its claims rate is higher than other practitioners in the US logistics industry. Amazon’s “work-related injuries” increased. First, during the epidemic, sales increased significantly and demand increased. Amazon did not expand staff recruitment, but adopted multi-frequency job rotation to solve the demand, resulting in damage to the health of workers; second, a high degree of automation The working rhythm is limited by the rhythm of the machine, and the laborers are exhausted, causing a large number of illnesses and accidents.

The more automated the warehouse, the higher the worker claims rate. For example, in a warehouse, a human worker has a goal of picking 100 items an hour, and a machine picking goal is 400 items. The movements of the workers need to cooperate with the machine. The machine sorts 400 pieces, and the human has to cooperate to complete 400 pieces. In this example, due to the addition of the machine, the worker has to perform three times more work than he can bear.

Large companies view production machines or robots as optimal productivity, or productivity alternatives, and workers must adapt to the rhythm of the machine to complete the entire production process. This arrangement actually not only harms the interests of workers, but also affects the social and economic structure. After all, robots do not consume.

At the consumer level, there are not too many scenarios for robot services at present. Although there are food delivery trolleys going around in restaurants, everyone thinks of them as sweepers that hold a tray.

But the time will come when Digit knocks on the door. At that time, will we still think sympathetically, "Brother Digit, live in the algorithm"? Perhaps Digit said nonchalantly, "I live in algorithms."

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