Tesla CEO Elon Musk showcases humanoid robot at event

Billionaire Elon Musk unveils the humanoid robot ‘Optimus’ at an event at a Tesla office in Palo Alto, California, on Friday. (Screen grab from Elon Musk's Twitter video)
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Updated 01 October 2022

Tesla CEO Elon Musk showcases humanoid robot at event

  • Musk says Optimus will be an “extremely capable robot,” unlike other humanoid robots that don’t have the intelligence to navigate the world by themselves

SAN FRANCISCO: Tesla CEO Elon Musk showcased his much-touted humanoid robot ‘Optimus’ at the electric vehicle maker’s “AI Day” event on Friday.
The billionaire has said a robot business will be worth more than its cars, hoping to expand beyond self-driving cars that have not yet become a reality despite his repeated promises.
A prototype of the robot walked on stage and waved to the seated audience. A video of the robot carrying a box, watering plants and moving metal bars in the automaker’s factory was shown.
“Our goal is to make a useful humanoid robot as quickly as possible,” Musk said at the event being held at a Tesla office in Palo Alto, California.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done to refine Optimus and prove it.”
Musk said currently humanoid robots are “missing a brain,” saying they don’t have the intelligence to navigate the world by themselves, and they are also very expensive and made in low volume.
By contrast, he said, the Optimus will be an “extremely capable robot,” to be made in very high volume, probably, ultimately millions of units and is expected to cost much less than a car, at under $20,000.
Musk is also expected to discuss Tesla’s long-delayed self-driving technology. In May, Musk said that the world’s most valuable car maker would be “worth basically zero” without achieving full self-driving capability, and it faces growing regulatory probes, as well as technological hurdles.
“There will be lots of technical detail & cool hardware demos,” Musk wrote on Twitter late on Wednesday, adding the event was aimed at recruiting engineers.

Tesla’s live demonstration record is mixed. Launches typically draw cheers, but in 2019 when Musk had an employee hurl a steel ball at the armored window of a new electric pickup truck, the glass cracked.
The key test for the robot is whether it can handle unexpected situations.
Musk announced Tesla’s plan for humanoid robots at its AI day in August last year and delayed this year’s event from August to have its robot prototype working, with a plan to start production possibly next year.

Tesla teased the unveiling of the bot on social media with an image of metallic robotic hands making a heart shape. But building human-like, versatile hands that can manipulate different objects is extremely challenging, said Heni Ben Amor, a robotics professor at Arizona State University.
Initially, Optimus, an allusion to the powerful and benevolent leader of the Autobots in the Transformers media franchise, would perform boring or dangerous jobs, including moving parts around Tesla factories or attaching a bolt to a car with a wrench, according to Musk.
“There’s so much about what people can do dexterously that’s very, very hard for robots. And that’s not going to change whether the robot is a robot arm or whether it’s in the shape of a humanoid,” Jonathan Hurst, chief technology officer at Agility Robotics, a humanoid robot firm, told Reuters.
Musk has said that in the future robots could be used in homes, making dinners, mowing the lawn and caring for the elderly, and even becoming a “buddy” for humans or a sex partner.
He is due at Friday’s event to give updates on Tesla’s much-delayed plan to launch self-driving cars, and on its high-speed computer, Dojo, which was unveiled last year and the company has said is integral to its development of self-driving technology.
Musk has said he expects Tesla will achieve full self-driving this year and mass produce a robotaxi with no steering wheel or pedal by 2024.
At an “Autonomy” event in 2019, Musk promised 1 million robotaxis by 2020 but has yet to deliver such a car. 


Elon Musk takes control of Twitter, fires executives — US media

Updated 28 October 2022

Elon Musk takes control of Twitter, fires executives — US media

  • Musk's initial moves at Twitter's helm included firing chief executive Parag Agrawal
  • Musk had a court-imposed Friday deadline to complete the deal

SAN FRANCISCO: Elon Musk took control of Twitter and fired its top executives, US media reported late Thursday, hours before the deadline for the billionaire to seal his on-again, off-again deal to purchase the social media network.
Musk's initial moves at Twitter's helm included firing chief executive Parag Agrawal, who went to court to hold the Tesla chief to the terms of a takeover deal he had tried to escape, the Washington Post and CNBC reported citing unnamed sources.
Musk had a court-imposed Friday deadline to complete the Twitter deal he inked in April.


Robotic suit gives paralyzed children gift of walking

Updated 20 October 2022

Robotic suit gives paralyzed children gift of walking

  • David Zabala uses a wheelchair due to his neurological condition, which also left him deaf and reliant on sign language
  • The exoskeleton enabled children who use wheelchairs to walk during muscle rehabilitation therapy

MEXICO CITY: Wearing a robotic exoskeleton designed specially for children, an eight-year-old boy with cerebral palsy walked through a therapy room in Mexico City, smiling triumphantly at the once-unthinkable feat.
David Zabala uses a wheelchair due to his neurological condition, which also left him deaf and reliant on sign language.
But thanks to the Atlas 2030 exoskeleton, which won its creator a European Inventor Award this year, he was able to walk and stand in front of a mirror where he drew smiling faces with colored marker pens.
“He’s taking his first steps. That’s a joy for him,” said the boy’s mother, Guadalupe Cardoso, 41.
“At first it scared him and his hands were very tense, and now I see that he’s already holding the marker pen and starting to draw or (play with) the ball,” Cardoso added.
It makes the exhausting, near two-hour journey from their home in the south of Mexico City to the therapy center totally worth it, she said.
The exoskeleton was designed by Spanish professor Elena Garcia Armada to enable children who use wheelchairs to walk during muscle rehabilitation therapy.
The mechanical joints of the battery-powered titanium suit adapt intelligently to the motion of each child, according to the European Patent Office, which presented Garcia with the European Inventor Award.
Giving paralyzed children the opportunity to walk “not only extends their life expectancy and enhances their physical well-being, but also improves their self-esteem,” it said.

Mexico is the third country, after Spain and France, where the Atlas 2030 has been used to treat children.
The suit helps “to achieve in record time rehabilitation goals” that would take months to achieve with conventional therapies, said Guadalupe Maldonado, director of Mexico’s Association for People with Cerebral Palsy.
The benefits include muscle strengthening, improvement of the digestive and respiratory systems and — above all — a major mood boost, Maldonado said.
The private organization, founded in 1970, has already seen positive results two weeks after acquiring its first exoskeleton, she said.
A second device, worth around $250,000, is due to arrive in Mexico City next month.
The association’s initial goal is to offer rehabilitation to about 200 children with cerebral palsy.
“We want to continue working and empowering, so that more children in the city and the country have access to this type of rehabilitation... that radically changes their lives,” Maldonado said.
The sessions also give joy to the therapists, who carefully fit the exoskeleton using its special corset, cuff and shoes and celebrate the children’s progress with smiles and applause.
“It motivates us a lot as therapists that we will be able to achieve many things in the future,” said Arturo Palafox, 28.
 


Apple says it will manufacture iPhone 14 in India

Updated 26 September 2022

Apple says it will manufacture iPhone 14 in India

  • Tech giant is moving some of its production away from China
  • Apple could make one out of four iPhones in India by 2025

NEW DELHI: Apple Inc said on Monday it will manufacture its latest iPhone 14 in India, as the tech giant moves some of its production away from China.

The company launched the flagship iPhone 14 at an event earlier this month, where it focused on safety upgrades rather than flashy new technical specifications, with the exception of a new adventure-focused watch.

"The new iPhone 14 lineup introduces groundbreaking new technologies and important safety capabilities. We're excited to be manufacturing iPhone 14 in India," Apple said in a statement.

Analysts at J.P.Morgan expect Apple to move about 5% of iPhone 14 production from late 2022 to India, which is the world's second-biggest smartphone market after China.

Apple could make one out of four iPhones in India by 2025, JPM analysts said in a note last week.


NASA spaceship fast approaching target in key test to redirect asteroids

Updated 24 September 2022

NASA spaceship fast approaching target in key test to redirect asteroids

  • Spaceship programmed to strike asteroid moonlet Dimorphos on Sept. 26 at roughly 23,000 kph
  • Dimorphos not a threat to Earth but the experiment is in preparation for an actual need 

WASHINGTON: Bet the dinosaurs wish they’d thought of this.
NASA on Monday will attempt a feat humanity has never before accomplished: deliberately smacking a spacecraft into an asteroid to slightly deflect its orbit, in a key test of our ability to stop cosmic objects from devastating life on Earth.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spaceship launched from California last November and is fast approaching its target, which it will strike at roughly 14,000 miles per hour (23,000 kph).
To be sure, neither the asteroid moonlet Dimorphos, nor the big brother it orbits, called Didymos, pose any threat as the pair loop the Sun, passing some seven million miles from Earth at nearest approach.
But the experiment is one NASA has deemed important to carry out before an actual need is discovered.
“This is an exciting time, not only for the agency, but in space history and in the history of humankind quite frankly,” Lindley Johnson, a planetary defense officer for NASA told reporters in a briefing Thursday.
If all goes to plan, impact between the car-sized spacecraft, and the 530-foot (160 meters, or two Statues of Liberty) asteroid should take place at 7:14pm Eastern Time (2314 GMT), and can be followed on a NASA livestream.
By striking Dimorphos head on, NASA hopes to push it into a smaller orbit, shaving ten minutes off the time it takes to encircle Didymos, which is currently 11 hours and 55 minutes — a change that will be detected by ground telescopes in the days that follow.
The proof-of-concept experiment will make a reality what has before only been attempted in science fiction — notably films such as “Armageddon” and “Don’t Look Up.”

As the craft propels itself through space, flying autonomously for the mission’s final phase like a self-guided missile, its main camera system, called DRACO, will start to beam down the very first pictures of Dimorphos.
“It’s going to start off as a little point of light and then eventually it’s going to zoom and fill the whole entire field of view,” said Nancy Chabot of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), which hosts mission control in a recent briefing.
“These images will continue until they don’t,” added the planetary scientist.
Minutes later, a toaster-sized satellite called LICIACube, which separated from DART a couple of weeks earlier, will make a close pass of the site to capture images of the collision and the ejecta — the pulverized rock thrown off by impact.
LICIACube’s picture will be sent back in the weeks and months that follow.
Also watching the event: an array of telescopes, both on Earth and in space — including the recently operational James Webb — which might be able to see a brightening cloud of dust.
Finally, a full picture of what the system looks like will be revealed when a European Space Agency mission four years down the line called Hera arrives to survey Dimorphos’s surface and measure its mass, which scientists can only guess at currently.

Very few of the billions of asteroids and comets in our solar system are considered potentially hazardous to our planet, and none in the next hundred or so years.
But “I guarantee to you that if you wait long enough, there will be an object,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s chief scientist.
We know that from the geological record — for example, the six-mile wide Chicxulub asteroid struck Earth 66 million years ago, plunging the world into a long winter that led to the mass extinction of the dinosaurs along with 75 percent of species.
An asteroid the size of Dimorphos, by contrast, would only cause a regional impact, such as devastating a city, albeit with a greater force than any nuclear bomb in history.
Scientists are also hoping to glean valuable new information that can inform them about the nature of asteroids more generally.
How much momentum DART imparts on Dimorphos will depend on whether the asteroid is solid rock, or more like a “rubbish pile” of boulders bound by mutual gravity, a property that’s not yet known.
We also don’t know its actual shape: whether it’s more like a dog bone or a donut, but NASA engineers are confident DART’s SmartNav guidance system will hit its target.
If it misses, NASA will have another shot in two years’ time, with the spaceship containing just enough fuel for another pass.
But if it succeeds, then it’s a first step toward a world capable of defending itself from a future existential threat, said Chabot.
 


Chinese astronauts go on spacewalk from new station

Updated 18 September 2022

Chinese astronauts go on spacewalk from new station

  • China is building its own space station after being excluded by the US from the International Space Station because its military runs the country’s space program

BEIJING: Two Chinese astronauts went on a spacewalk Saturday from a new space station that is due to be completed later this year.
Cai Xuzhe and Chen Dong installed pumps, a handle to open the hatch door from outside in an emergency, and a foot-stop to fix an astronaut’s feet to a robotic arm, state media said.
China is building its own space station after being excluded by the US from the International Space Station because its military runs the country’s space program. American officials see a host of strategic challenges from China’s space ambitions, in an echo of the US-Soviet rivalry that prompted the race to the moon in the 1960s.
The latest spacewalk was the second during a six-month mission that will oversee the completion of the space station. The first of two laboratories, a 23-ton module, was added to the station in July and the other is to be sent up later this year.
The third member of the crew, Liu Yang, supported the other two from inside during the spacewalk. Liu and Chen conducted the first spacewalk about two weeks ago.
They will be joined by three more astronauts near the end of their mission in what will be the first time the station has six people on board.
China became the third nation to send a person into space in 2003, following the former Soviet Union and the United States. It has sent rovers to the moon and Mars and brought lunar samples back to Earth.