Will Elon Musk’s ‘AI Day’ Robot Help Robotics Go More Mainstream?

At Tesla’s recent “AI Day,” CEO Elon Musk revealed that his company is working on a humanoid robot designed to handle “boring, repetitive and dangerous” work. He also claimed that a prototype will roll out in 2022. 

If you’ve followed Musk’s announcements over the years, you know he’s optimistic about timetables. For example, he predicted in Ye Olden Days of 2015 that fully autonomous driving (i.e., “Level 5 autonomy”) would arrive within the next two or three years, something which obviously didn’t come to pass. So when he says a human-sized robot prototype will be striding around within 12 months, performing simple tasks, you can probably treat that with a bit of skepticism.

Nonetheless, Musk is convinced robots could become the next big thing. “We’re just obviously making the pieces that are needed for a useful humanoid robot so I guess we probably should make it,” he told the audience at the event, according to The Washington Post. “And if we don’t someone else would. … I guess we should make it and make sure it’s safe.”

According to specs, the robot is 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 125 pounds; if Musk achieves what he promises, it will be capable of carrying 45 pounds and moving five miles per hour. It’s unclear how much work on the machine has already been done; the “robot” onstage was clearly someone in a costume dancing to techno:

According to Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, robotics-related jobs will grow 11 percent over the next decade. At the moment, the median salary for robotics-related positions is $69,000, which seems low compared to other technology jobs, although those with the right mix of robotics skills and experience can make six-figure salaries. Presumably, Tesla will pay its technologists working on its robotics project quite a bit, at least if the salaries of engineers working on the company’s cars is any kind of indicator. 

Other companies are hard at work on their own version of consumer robotics. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Samsung and other tech giants rolled out drones and robots designed to make humans’ everyday lives much easier. If robots actually catch on with the public, demand for technologists skilled in everything from computer vision to machine learning to hardware could spike; keep that in mind when thinking about your long-term career.