I’ve been keeping an eye on Darpa’s terminator program for some years now, and was only last week showing my buddy Littles videos of the terrifying Big Dog and its humanoid Petman/Pet-Proto equivalent. Dude was so shocked. “Imagine one of those things after you!” he exclaimed, wide eyed, watching the Big Dog breaking land speed records, finally flipping itself over as it reached 28.3 miles an hour.
“DARPA’s Cheetah robot—already the fastest legged robot in history—just broke its own land speed record of 18 miles per hour (mph),” bragged its creators. “In the process, Cheetah also surpassed another very fast mover: Usain Bolt. According to the International Association of Athletics Federations, Bolt set the world speed record for a human in 2009 when he reached a peak speed of 27.78 mph for a 20-meter split during the 100-meter sprint. Cheetah was recently clocked at 28.3 mph for a 20-meter split. The Cheetah had a slight advantage over Bolt as it ran on a treadmill, the equivalent of a 28.3 mph tail wind, but most of the power Cheetah used was to swing its legs fast enough, not to propel itself forward.”
Yes, robot dogs that can hunt at 28.3 miles an hour are all well and good, but our perfect dystopia requires decent looking humanoid devices to be fully realised. And so, those wacky characters at Darpa have dropped a 2 minute video starring the latest star of their humanoid robot program, ATLAS, which I first wrote about in 2011. Check it out:
Aw, look! He’s dancing! How CUTE and FUNNY!
Meet ATLAS, a cool, yet creepy-looking robot built by Boston Dynamics for the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC). ATLAS could be the future of advanced disaster response and will be a first step to using robots, rather than humans, to help during major world catastrophes, such as the Fukushima nuclear accident.
ATLAS stands at a hulking 6 feet, 2 inches tall and weighs 330 pounds. The robot was designed to be used by the seven teams that progressed from DARPA’s Virtual Robotics Challenge (VRC). ATLAS is already capable of a variety of natural movement, including dynamic walking and calisthenics. However, the teams are being challenged to teach ATLAS the moves it will need to pass the DRC trials in December, which will be organized around a disaster response scenario.
In no way will these things interface with SRI International’s Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes, a five year project founded by DARPA to create artificial intelligence that will be fed masses of human data from which it will learn to be like us… but “better.” In their words, “cognitive software systems, that is, systems that can reason, learn from experience, be told what to do, explain what they are doing, reflect on their experience, and respond robustly to surprise.”
Respond robustly to surprise with an army of Big Dogs and Atlas robots, because no good sci-fi film ever went uncopied by crazy military scientists.
For a sneak preview of the next decade, have a look at this clever little crystal ball thingy.