On Friday evening, Tesla (TSLA 1.08%) held its second annual AI Day, which focused on the electric vehicle (EV) pioneer's progress in three areas heavily related to artificial intelligence (AI). These included developing Optimus, a humanoid robot; improving Autopilot's self-driving capabilities; and developing Dojo, a supercomputer for AI training.
The event, held at the company's former global headquarters in Palo Alto, California, was livestreamed and a recording is available on its website.
Here's what investors should know about Optimus, which Tesla plans to eventually produce at large scale.
What tasks can Optimus perform?
A rough development prototype of Optimus kicked off Friday's event by walking on stage, waving, and doing a little dance. While Michael Jackson's legacy has nothing to fear from its dance moves, Optimus has come a long way over the past year.
At last year's AI Day, Tesla unveiled a concept of this humanoid robot. The Optimus prototype that walked on stage on Friday was reportedly developed by February 2022. In a prerecorded demonstration, the company showed Optimus performing several tasks, including picking up a box and placing it on a desk, and picking up a watering can and watering plants.
How much will Optimus cost?
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that he expects Optimus to cost "much less than a car," and "probably less than $20,000."
Musk's price estimates for Tesla's EV models ahead of their launches have generally been notably lower than their actual pricing. Nonetheless, even with a price tag double or triple what Musk is projecting, Tesla's bot should have no shortage of takers if it can perform work that's useful to businesses and high-income individuals. Unlike human employees or personal assistants, robots don't have to be paid, don't need time off to sleep, and have other advantages.
What are Optimus' basic specs?
Tesla is using the human form as its north star in designing Optimus. It's leveraging its learnings from designing its vehicles, which it believes will enable it to more quickly and efficiently scale production. For instance, it's reducing the robot's part count as much as possible and limiting its body's degrees of freedom (excluding its hands) to 28, whereas the human body has more than 200 possible movement combinations.
The Optimus prototype's power source (battery pack) and AI-driven "brain" are at its physical center. The battery's capacity is 2.3 kilowatt-hours (kWh), which is "perfect for a full day of work," according to the engineer on the Optimus team that presented this topic. She said the company can produce the Optimus battery pack using its existing infrastructure and supply chain. Tesla uses lithium-ion batteries in its EVs and energy-storage products.
For context, Tesla's standard version of its Model 3 sedan weighs 3,565 lbs. and has an estimated total battery capacity of 60 kWh.
When will customers be able to receive an Optimus?
Musk estimates that "within three to five years, you [customers] can probably receive an Optimus." He's not referring to ordering a robot, but actually receiving one.
This timeline seems overly optimistic. But if Tesla allocates enough resources to this project, a first-generation Optimus might be available earlier than many people might now believe is possible.
Will Optimus actually come to fruition as a product that Tesla sells?
Musk is well-known for having many grandiose plans, some of which will probably not go beyond the development stage. That said, it seems more likely than not that Tesla will eventually sell humanoid robots at scale.
Artificial intelligence has been advancing at a rapid pace, and it seems realistic to believe that a salable "smart" robot that can do some useful tasks isn't that far in the future. And eventually, robots that can perform much more advanced tasks -- in the workplace and in homes -- will arrive.
Tesla investors have to like that Musk thinks big. Being an early entrant into any massive secular trend can provide a company with a considerable and often lasting early mover advantage. Case in point, of course, is Tesla's EV business. Early investors in the company's stock have been phenomenally rewarded.