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Many observers were disappointed with the recent demo of the AI-enabled “Optimus” robot at Tesla’s AI Day. One reviewer cleverly titled his article “Sub-Optimus.” However, these views actually miss the point. Whatever else may be said of Elon Musk, he is a genius at sensing timing and opportunity, applying technology and providing the necessary resources.
The quality and enthusiasm of the engineering team suggest Optimus could succeed, even if it takes longer than the estimate of 3 to 5 years for full production. If successful, Optimus could bring personal robots into the mainstream within a decade.
Although initially expensive at an estimated $20,000, an Optimus sibling in 2032 could be as commonplace in shops or factories as Tesla is today on the road. Fast forward another 10 years and humanoid robots in daily life could be commonplace, whether at home or in stores and restaurants, in factories and warehouses, or in health and home care settings.
AI hype: Interacting with robots
In this vision, the idea of an “artificial friend,” an emotionally intelligent android as portrayed by Kazuo Ishiguro in Klara and the Sun, does not seem so farfetched. Neither do “digients” (short for “digital entities”), as described by Ted Chiang in The Lifecycle of Software Objects. Digients are artificial intelligences created within a purely digital world that inhabit a digital shared space (much like the emerging metaverse) but also can be downloaded into physical robots such that they can interact with people in the real world.
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