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elon musk optimus tesla robot blurry cellphone 2002

Elon Musk has shared a new video on Saturday featuring Optimus, the robot Tesla has been working on since 2021. But anyone who tries to watch the video will immediately notice something weird. The clip of Optimus is so low quality and pixelated that it looks like it was shot on a flip-phone from two decades ago.

The new video was posted in the early morning hours of Saturday and has been viewed over 35 million times as of this writing. But the video appears to show Optimus just walking around without doing much of anything. That would have been quite impressive around 2013 or so, since it’s relatively difficult to get machines to walk like humans, but it’s not entirely clear why Musk would want the world to see Optimus walking like this.

Incremental technical achievements aside, why does this video look so terrible? We weren’t the only ones to notice the bizarrely pixelated quality, as plenty of Musk fans made jokes about the blurriness.

“Was this filmed with a potato?” one user quipped.

“Same photographer?” another X user quipped with a photo of Bigfoot.

Tesla didn’t immediately respond to questions about this new video of Optimus emailed Saturday.

Musk unveiled Optimus with an unconventional presentation in the summer of 2021 that really felt like the billionaire was desperate to hype virtually anything futuristic. Tesla’s AI Day that year didn’t feature a real robot, but rather someone dressed in a white and black suit moving around like a stereotypical robot before starting to dance a jig.

Tesla’s robot has made progress since that first jokey unveiling, but Optimus still has quite a ways to go before it can catch up to the most cutting edge robots of the 2020s. Atlas, a humanoid robot made by Boston Dynamics, started learning how to pick itself up in 2016, standing on one leg that same year, doing backflips in 2017, and achieved parkour-style jumping in 2018.

And Atlas is still making progress in ways that rival how humans actually move. Last year, the Atlas robot showed off its ability to manipulate its environment to navigate complex worksites.

Optimus has made improvements since it was first announced but it has quite a ways to go if it wants to catch up to a company like Boston Dynamics. Arguably the most impressive thing we’ve seen Optimus do is fold laundry, but if you take a close look at the video, there was a person standing just off-screen mimicking the movements. And, frankly, that’s technology that’s been possible since the 1960s.

Can Tesla develop a truly autonomous robot that can work as a household servant, just as Musk has promised? Only time will tell. But we’ve been waiting on that version of the future for over a century now. Robotics is hard. But we can certainly keep dreaming.

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