Tesla's Optimus Gen 2 humanoid: A lot more Model S than Cybertruck
Tesla has completely overhauled its humanoid robot. The Optimus Gen 2 is 10 kg (22 lb) lighter, 30% faster, a lot smoother and more capable, and it looks much more human in the way it moves. It's also got new hands and feet, and some of Elon's style.
It certainly seems Tesla's robotics team is moving with its CEO's typical sense of manic urgency. It's a little over two years since Musk first announced the company was getting into the humanoid game, but Tesla had functional prototypes up and running in a jiffy. By March this year, the company had a brand new "Optimus" robot and was showing some impressive capabilities. And a scant ten months later, an all-new Optimus Gen 2 body is the new state of the art.
The Gen 2 bot gets two degrees of freedom in its neck, integrated electronics and wiring, and a more human foot shape with articulated toe sections and force/torque sensors. It also gets brand new hands, with 11 degrees of movement freedom, faster actuators, and tactile sensors on all its fingers to enable more deft manipulation of objects.
It looks much more streamlined and humanoid, moves much more smoothly, balances better and walks a fair bit less like it's soiled its trousers, although you still wouldn't want to get in an elevator with anyone walking like that.
With new white bodywork, it's more Model S than the old Optimus's bare-metal Cybertruck look. But it's also 10% lighter. And as the video below shows, it's also gained the ability to dance at least as well as Elon himself.
It's a super-impressive new robot, and the pace of hardware development here has been absolutely wild, even if Tesla still seems a fair way behind Boston Dynamics and its remarkable Atlas robot in terms of athleticism and capability. But Atlas isn't designed to be mass manufactured – an area in which Musk and Tesla have proven themselves every bit as innovative as they have with their products. Indeed, Atlas is at this stage merely a research platform, while Tesla, Figure, Agility, Fourier, Sanctuary, Apptronik and many others are explicitly preparing humanoids to hit the workforce en masse.
As stunning as Tesla's new hardware looks, the hardware is probably the least important hurdle here. What all the humanoid makers need to do is demonstrate their robots doing real work, in the real world, in a repeatable, reliable and flexible manner. That's when they'll start stepping in and changing the world.
And for a glimpse at how that's currently going, check out how quickly Toyota is teaching robots to use tools and complete various kitchen tasks. Spoiler: visual AIs are watching humans work and learning new capabilities within hours. The pace of progress in 2023 has been absolutely staggering, friends, and it's only going to accelerate from here. Major upheavals are coming from all directions.