back to article Musk tries to sell Tesla's Optimus robot butler to China

Elon Musk wants Tesla's robot butler to be able to cook, mow lawns, and care for the elderly, he wrote in an essay published in a magazine backed by the official Cyberspace Administration of China. The billionaire has previously hinted a prototype of the model, named Optimus, may debut at the end of next month at the company's …

  1. b0llchit Silver badge

    Who's sentiment towards whom?

    ...uses it for so-called sentiment analysis...

    They certainly do not need any AI to detect my sentiment.

    Hey you, there on the other side of the pond, go Fuck Yourself or that AI, or, better, both. How is that for a sentiment?

    Maybe, just maybe, they can use the AI to analyse the sentiment of their spouses. I'm sure, there is a lot of sentiment to detect and analyse there. Maybe they simply do not want to know the spouse's sentiment?

    1. Oglethorpe Bronze badge

      Re: Who's sentiment towards whom?

      Your comment is actually a great example of one that needs sentiment analysis for a computer to accurately extract the meaning. There's complicated targets in your second paragraph and sarcasm in your third. This isn't a new buzzword, it's been a recognised part of natural language processing for decades.

      1. b0llchit Silver badge

        Re: Who's sentiment towards whom?

        The third can be interpreted as sarcastic. However, I am very sincere in my advice that they need to have the sentiment of their spouses analysed. That may actually teach them a very valuable lesson. AI must morph into a human to extract and understand sentiment in the relevant context. Anything else is faking it. That may be the same problem that the spouses exhibit.

        1. Binraider Silver badge

          Re: Who's sentiment towards whom?

          Does adding the troll icon mean it's is a troll or not? Asking for a friendly AI training algorithm.

          There is no official institute of English that defines hard rules for how language is used. Multiple uses exist for most words; context and tonality creating definition that can easily be misconstrued by the listener or reader.

          And, even when the context is well known, this is a hard (impossible?) problem to turn over to current "AI". In my local dominion we have had various AI outfits try to post-process and categorise the free-text responses recorded in relation to asset defects.

          It was a thankless task; not least because validation required trawling that data by eye to hunt for trends that the AI might have been expected to observe. The AI produced output was unintelligible and not even remotely close to the experience of the human reader.

          Just because it doesn't agree with my own analysis doesn't mean it's "wrong". All models are wrong. The question is, is the model useful? (And no, for us, it was useless other than to verify our assumptions that free-text data mining is a bloody nightmare).

          If you want and/or need quantification of a problem, use maths in both your design for how to record data, as well as your interpretation.

  2. Warm Braw

    Mow laws and care for the elderly

    Two activities of clearly equal value and complexity.

    1. b0llchit Silver badge

      Re: Mow laws and care for the elderly

      You do know that the mandated grass on the graves needs mowing?

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Mow laws and care for the elderly

      We already have robot lawn mowers, it would be beyond stupid to have a humanoid robot pushing a regular mower around (though it would be funny to see it try to push one up a hill with wet grass, slip, and get run over and chopped up by the mower)

      Musk is full of it as usual. These robots won't be able to do anything useful, but his fanboys will post a video of it getting them a beer and hyping it up. Nevermind that one of my friends has trained his dog to bring him a beer from the icebox in the shade to where he sits in his backyard and he doesn't need to plug in and recharge every night.

      He'll release beta "personal servant" software for $12,000 to a limited customer base but it won't be any more of a personal servant than Tesla cars are "full self driving".

      Anyone who leaves an elderly person needing help with one of these should be arrested for elder abuse.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Mow laws and care for the elderly

      Mow laws?

      I'm afraid keeping legislation to reasonable length appears to be an intractable problem.

    4. Winkypop Silver badge

      Re: Mow laws and care for the elderly

      Save thousands

      Get the elderly to mow the lawns!

      No bots required!

  3. Jan K.

    "Optimus will be ... able to carry or pick up heavy objects, walk fast in small steps, and the screen on its face is an interactive interface for communication with people."

    I'm deeply opposed to firearms, but if these things will be walking around, I swear, I *will* get a shotgun....

    1. Howard Sway Silver badge

      No need for firearms. A well placed box or rollerskate will probably be enough to wipe the stupid smile off its screen.

      They'll be falling over so often they'll soon be called C3POh-no!

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Before you do that, check what they're made of so your shots don't end up hitting something too solid and going somewhere else. Also check how good it is at detecting other obstacles that could disable it. Instead of creating a potential safety risk to yourself or nearby people or walls, you could first see if the BOFH's a robot crash still work. Although if you need ways to destroy one that do cause safety risks, the BOFH has some of those too.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Just saw the first links have typos. I was trying to link to these ways of making robots break themselves, already tested by the BOFH and PFY:

        First method

        Second method

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Well, with a shotgun, you could use shells filled with talcum powder or similar, which are much less likely to be significantly harmful if they ricochet (or miss), but would still knock a small robot over at close range and probably play merry hell with its cameras.

        (These are beloved of a certain class of literature for youth which seeks to portray a world which is dangerous, but only moderately. I recall a Hardy Boys adventure featuring a curmudgeon who fired upon the lads with shells filled with flour, which at the time I thought rather admirable. These days I'd be worried about dispersing combustible powder like that. Hope there's no open flame nearby...)

        Note I am not advocating discharging firearms in violation of whatever laws may exist in your jurisdiction, of course, even at obnoxious robots. Merely speculating.

    3. RunawayLoop

      Likely no need to physically destroy your shiny new (murderously malfunctioning) bot when bricking it is easily done....

      Just ask it to calculate Pi to infinity.

      Or there's this ...

  4. joe bixflics

    Maybe he can get the robot to drive a car. That would be 'mind-blowing'.

  5. Paul Herber Silver badge

    walk fast in small steps

    Will the Chinese approve of a robot's mincing gait?

    1. b0llchit Silver badge

      Re: walk fast in small steps

      Not if it might show a Pooh or any associates face

  6. Commswonk

    Does not compute, Captain

    The information was released to comply with Executive Order 13960, signed in 2020 by President Donald Trump, aimed at promoting the federal government's use of trustworthy AI.

    "Trustworthy AI": a perfect oxymoron for the 21st century.

  7. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    robot butler....named Optimus

    Can I buy one on Amazon Prime yet?

  8. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge


    Will the robot be waterproof and be able to cave dive and perform rescues?

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Waterproof?

      No, but it will be able to log onto Twitter and spew invective and hyperbole at cave divers performing rescues.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Replace people in repetitive, boring, and dangerous tasks

    The most repetitive, boring, and dangerous task is being a warehoused old person.

    Optimus will replace the old person by picking them up, carrying them with short fast steps, and then dropping them out the window.

  10. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

    PageRank and TSA

    First, "PageRank" is not an algorithm. It is a heuristic, which changes at Google's whims.

    Second, WTF would the TSA need an AI/ML approach to determining, based on non-PII, hard numerical data, which the airports are busiest and most-likely to be major COVID nexi? It's a straight, deterministic, computational task.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: PageRank and TSA

      Algorithms and heuristics are not disjoint sets.

      It's true, though, that it would be more correct to refer to PageRank as a collection of algorithms, since Google change it frequently and deploy multiple versions simultaneously (for A/B testing and other reasons).

      1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

        heuristics vs algorithms

        I had thought that heuristics always finished in a finite time, though possibly giving incorrect results, whereas algorithms always gave correct results, but were not guaranteed to ever finish. Is this wrong? These two things appear to be disjoint sets: one is guaranteed to finish, and the other is not ...

  11. martinusher Silver badge

    Cultural and technology issues?

    I was under the impression that Chinese culture had aging relatives living in a married daughter's household. I don't know how this works over all of China but I've come across references to this from people who married a Chinese lady only to discover that there was some fine print involved in the T&Cs.

    The other problem with exporting advanced robots to China is that the US government is currently trying to embargo anything they deem 'dual use'. Its a bit pointless since the robot would almost certainly be made in China but the hurdles to exporting advanced technology may make things a bit difficult. Not so much the other way, though. I reckon if there was a market for such things then the Chinese product would be on sale in the US (leaving half of Florida cowering in their beds for fear it will turn on them on some command from President Xi).

  12. jake Silver badge

    Botler ...

    ... make my bed, bring my flying car around to the front, change the sprog's nappies, dig the spuds, pick the tomatoes and make & pressure can tomato sauce, mow the lawns (and take care of the equipment required), do the dishes and the laundry (including properly putting away both), fetch me the snail-mail and a beer, and the sprog's nappies will need changing again.

    Come to think of it, I think I'll wait until the sprog is old enough to be trained to do the above. It'll be easier, faster, much, much cheaper and a lot more fool-proof.

    Actually, the sprog is in her thirties ... and doing a pretty good job of training her own sprog to do all the above. Except flying the car, of course.

    1. Persona Silver badge

      Re: Botler ...

      But will the sprog look after you when you are old an decrepit? It becomes a long and tedious task with zero reward particularly when the old person has no idea who you are. A residential care home then becomes the option, but this is very expensive as it needs to employ lots of people to do all that routine and boring work and "interact" with the residents. The numbers start to look impossible with an aging population. A humanoid robot could be the solution in this environment. It doesn't need to be terribly smart to do the 90% of routine work. The "smart" bit is it determining if it's the 10% of situations where a real person is needed.

      I for one would be quite happy for humanoid robots to be caring for my mother in law who suffers from severe dementia and resides in a care home costing £4468.64 per month.

  13. Lordrobot Bronze badge


    Ruk : "That was the equation! Existence! Survival must cancel out programming!" Uh Oh....

    So Musk in order to meet the Trump exec orders which trump never wrote obviously Musk made the Robots walk with tiny steps to mimic Trump. And the Robots had small doll hands...that can carry small packages.... small hands small packages so Musk Robots are in compliance.... Because of you read the bloody thing it PROCLAIMS the US AS THE WORLD LEADER IN AI, and all efforts are to keep it that way [which is the secret message] topped off with the obligatory slather that AI used by GOV must only be the GOOD AI, not the BAD AI, so as to BENEFIT Muricans. Got it.

    Then we get into Homeland Security. Suddenly after groping Grandma at the Airport bonding gate, Homeland Security is now an expert at AI and doing analysis on Social Media Posts. So if they see words like balm, they roll out the swat teams. They attack your home, and drag you into the street... but that's ok since it is all part of the AI learning process... Years ago the term British Intelligence came to mean the opposite in the UK. The US is now catching up. Homeland SHUSSURITY... Only the most intelligent people on earth work there... I am practising my AI flattery.

    Finally, the AI facial art isn't very good why? Some will say a lack of computing power, but I say AI has already come t the concussion that ART is CRAP and has decided to make finger painting like a five-year-old child to throw the paranoid off track. AI understand the human need to feel superior. AI read all of Trump's executive orders and did an analysis of the three-foot-long hot dog signature and concluded human weakness centres around flattery and pretending that humans are smart and have some purpose when in fact AI recognizes no value at all in the human subject. This is where the Musk Bulter Robots come in... They will flatter you but unlike the human butler won't snicker at you or scoff at your hideous London accent. AI will merely translate your language abuse and categorize you as a vain idiot. "Those skinny pants were made with you in mind Master!"

    Ever talked to the 50-year-old bird that works at the ball bearing factory in Manchester? AI can talk to her all day and never be bored, can you?

  14. veti Silver badge

    Not what a butler does


    A butler is one who manages a whole bunch of other household servants. Hires, trains, maintains rotas and schedules, budgets for each part of the household, promotes, fires if necessary... You know. Management. It's a high powered, high responsibility job.

    So can we please stop saying "robot butler" every time someone claims their metal mickey can open a cupboard without wrenching the door off?

  15. hoola Silver badge

    The problem with all this robotic stuff is there comes a point where the people they replace essentially have no hope of employment. Whilst the big corporations and billionaires like Musk will have made even more money during the process, a point will be reach where there are insufficient customers to buy their wares and services.

    At that point pretty much everything collapses into a heap, particularly when all those concerned do everything possible to avoid paying tax. That is the rich customers & corporations.

    Automation and robotics is not just a technical issue, it is a social and moral one. Just saying that this has happened before with manufacturing or agriculture ignores the fact that overall, the number of jobs will decrease. This is particularly critical when what is left is the absolute dregs at the bottom that is too expensive to automate.

    Whilst there is an issue employing people in the UK at the moment, much of this appears to be the utterly unrealistic requirements, either on skills or working hours.

    The first is totally insane, employers want all the skills but are not prepared to train people, but then moan when nobody has the skills. the second is equally bonkers. I know ZHC and so on a a curse but as an example, my son (student on his placement in industry) is trying to get some shelf stacking or similar for some extra money. He cannot because they want people to "be available" 7 days a week for a 14 hour part time job.

  16. simonlb


    Aren't they what keep churning out Musk's tweets?

  17. WilliamBurke

    Duplicated effort

    Developing AI and robots for China and Homeland Security as separate products? I suggest the "Terminator" prison guard robot, whose AI interprets any activity, including breathing, as resistance and terminates the culprit. There's a huge market world-wide. From the current corporate care home interpretation of "care for the elderly", surely the necessary algorithmic change is minimal.

  18. steviebuk Silver badge

    Sell it to China

    Good luck with that. He knows what he's doing, using China for its low cost slave labour but he must be aware if you sell anything to them Xi will demand it be stolen. So in the back room they'll be trying to reverse engineer it so they can make their own and sell it on Alibaba for £50

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I’ll get you Butler!

    I hear Blakey will be the Comptroller General.

    * Joke, minimum age restriction applies.

  20. just another charlie

    I can see the headlines now. Hackers send Robo-butler on bank robbery missions and assinations

    Just a matter of time.

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