An uncharacteristically subdued Elon Musk presented some short video on the Optimus prototype, noting that as recently as October last year, it had to be rolled out on stage to wave like a politician.
"It's worth bearing in mind that when we did AI day, this version of Optimus didn't walk at all," said Musk. "So the rate of improvement here is quite significant. It's obviously not doing parkour, but it is walking around, and we have multiple copies, I suppose, of Optimus."
The video shows Optimus walking around – albeit fairly slowly in comparison to the parkour-capable Atlas robot by Boston Dynamics. It also makes use of its opposable thumbs and human-like hands, in a sequence in which one Optimus robot unplugs a dismembered Optmus arm from a test stand, picks it up, and carries it over to a workstation where another bot is working on a third. With some crafty editing, it gives the impression that the first robot is holding the arm in place while the second bolts it onto the third robot in a mockup of android-based manufacturing.
If it suffers in comparison to Atlas, it's not alone. Atlas is the most advanced humanoid robot on the planet, and has been for many years now. But the context here is important; Boston Dynamics has been working on bio-mimetic robots since 1992. It unveiled its first humanoid PETMAN robot in 2009, and within two years it was shown walking, squatting, kneeling and balancing against push forces. Atlas made its debut in 2013, and has taken a solid 10 years to learn to dance, do parkour, and begin to perform some basic tasks. So it seems fair to give the youthful Optimus bot time to catch up.