It’s not the first car company to experiment with humanoid robots.

DETROIT is an early prototype Tesla Inc.’s Optimus humanoid robot walked slowly and awkwardly onto the stage, turned and waved to a cheering crowd at the company’s artificial intelligence event on Friday.

But the basic tasks of the bare-wires and electronics robot, as well as a later, next-generation version that had to be carried on stage by three men, fell far short of CEO Elon Musk’s vision of a humanoid robot that could change the world.

Musk told the crowd, many of whom may be employed by Tesla, that the robot can do much more than the audience saw on Friday. It’s also delicate, he said, and “we just didn’t want it to fall on its face.”

Musk suggested that the problem with flashy robot demonstrations is that the robots “lack brains” and don’t have the intelligence to guide themselves, but on Friday he provided little evidence that Optimus was more intelligent than robots developed by others companies and researchers. .

The demonstration did not impress artificial intelligence researcher Filip Pekneuski, who tweeted that it was “next-level horror-worthy” and “a complete and utter scam.” He said it would be “a good idea to test the drop because this thing is going to drop a lot.”

“None of this is cutting edge,” robotics expert Cynthia Jung tweeted. “Hire PhDs and go to some @Tesla robotics conferences.”

Yeung also questioned why Tesla chose a five-fingered human hand for its robot, noting that “there’s a reason why” warehouse robots developed by start-up companies use two- or three-fingered pincers or vacuum grippers.

Musk said the first robot took the stage without a tether on Friday night. Tesla’s goal, he said, is to make “extremely capable” robots in large volumes — perhaps millions — at a cost that could be less than a car, which he estimates will cost less than $20,000 dollars.

Tesla showed a video of a robot that uses artificial intelligence, which Tesla is testing in its “fully self-driving” vehicles, carrying boxes and placing a metal bar in what appeared to be a factory machine. But there was no live demonstration of the robot’s execution of tasks.

The staff told the crowd in Palo Alto, California, as well as those watching live, that they had been working on Optimus for six to eight months. People will likely be able to buy Optimus “within three to five years,” Musk said.

Employees said the Optimus robots will have four fingers and a thumb with a tendon-like system so they can have human-like dexterity.

The robot is supported by giant artificial intelligence computers that track millions of video frames from “fully self-driving” cars. They said similar computers would be used to teach robots tasks.

Robotics experts have been skeptical that Tesla is close to releasing legions of humanoid home robots that can do the “useful things” Musk wants them to do — like cook dinner, mow the lawn, watch over an elderly grandmother.

“When you’re trying to design a robot that’s accessible and useful, a humanoid shape and size isn’t necessarily the best way to go,” said Tom Ryden, executive director of nonprofit startup incubator Mass Robotics.

Tesla is not the first car company to experiment with humanoid robots.

Honda introduced more than two decades ago Winter, which resembled a life-size space suit and was shown in a carefully orchestrated demonstration of being able to pour liquid into a cup. Hyundai also owns a collection humanoid and animal-like robots by acquiring robotics firm Boston Dynamics in 2021. Ford is partnering with Agility Robotics, an Oregon startup that makes two-legged, two-armed robots that can walk and lift packages.

Riden said carmakers’ research into humanoid robotics could potentially lead to cars that can walk, climb and overcome obstacles, but impressive past demonstrations haven’t led to a “real use case” that lives up to the hype.

“They learn a lot by understanding how humanoids function,” he said. “But in terms of having a humanoid as a product, I’m not sure that’s coming anytime soon.”

Critics also said years ago that Musk and Tesla would not be able to create a profitable new car company that uses batteries for power instead of gasoline.

Tesla is testing “fully self-driving” cars on public roads, but they must be supervised by select owners who must be ready to step in at any time. The company says there are about 160,000 vehicles on the road today equipped with the test software.

Critics say Teslas, which rely on cameras and powerful computers for self-driving, don’t have enough sensors to drive safely. Tesla’s less capable Autopilot driver assistance system with the same camera sensors is under investigation by US safety regulators braking for no reason and repeatedly came across ambulances with flashing lights parked along freeways.

In 2019, Musk promised an autonomous fleet robotaxi will be used by the end of 2020. They are still being tested.