Tesla has shared an update on the development of Optimus, with the humanoid robot demonstrating that it can now fold a t-shirt. While the demonstration did not feature the robot folding the shirt autonomously, it does show the robot’s increasing range of motion and agility.
When Elon Musk first announced Optimus, one of the main selling points of the humanoid robot was that it would be able to the mundane and repetitive tasks that humans didn’t want to do. With obvious industrial applications in places such as factories, it also held promise for those who wanted Optimus around their home, doing their dishes and laundry.
However, when the robot made its first public debut at AI Day, the demonstration was less than impressive, with Optimus needing to be rolled out on stage. In the short time since then however, the pace of development has been nothing short of astounding. Late last year the company took the covers off ‘Optimus Gen 2,’ a much more refined version of Optimus that was faster, lighter, and more agile than its predecessors.
One of the major upgrades in Optimus Gen 2 were its hands, and on Monday Elon Musk shared a video of the robot using those hands to fold a shirt. Musk was quick to point out that the demonstration was not completed autonomously, but that it “certainly will be able to do this fully autonomously and in an arbitrary environment (won’t require a fixed table with box that has only one shirt).”
Instead, it was completed through teleoperation, or remotely by a human, who you can sometimes see in the bottom right corner of the video moving their hands.
Optimus folds a shirt pic.twitter.com/3F5o3jVLq1— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 15, 2024
The act of folding a shirt, while seemingly simple, is actually a complex task for a robot. It requires a high level of precision and fine motor skills, as well as the ability to handle soft and flexible materials, which have been longstanding challenges in robotics.
While autonomous operation remains the ultimate goal, teleoperation is a crucial step in the development process. It allows for human operators to guide the robot, teaching it how to perform tasks and helping it to learn and adapt, speeding up the learning process for Optimus.
It also demonstrates the robustness and versatility of the robot’s hardware. The ability to replicate human-like movements and handle objects with care and precision is essential for a wide range of applications, from domestic chores to more complex industrial tasks. This demonstration proves that the hardware is capable of such movements, which is a critical foundation for future developments in its autonomy.