Now The Robots Are Skiing and Opening Doors
As the robots move ever closer to Terminator status, they know they’re going to have to pick up some basic motor skills. From playing soccer to dancing en masse to doing push-ups, they’ve been making steady progress in imitating our moves and adapting to the demands of bipedal and quadripedal movement. And now they’ve added skiing and door-opening to their repertoire.
First off, those creepy Boston Dynamics robot-dogs are at it again. And just like the raptors in The Lost World, this time they’ve learned teamwork. In the above video, two SpotMini robots help each other to open doors. Using cameras and an extendable arm, it determines where the door is and holds it open for its friend.
I also hate everything about the nightmarish way it moves. As Wired observes, “This newest version of SpotMini marries the stability of a quadruped with the dexterity of a human. It’s a hybrid creature that shows the awesome power of robotics: Human engineers are inventing an incredible array of new species because they’re not bound by the rules of nature, just physics. Want to put an extra arm on a four-legged robot? Go ahead.”
Meanwhile, while the humans are distracted by the Olympics over in Pyeongchang, the robots had their own skiing competition in Hoengseong, Korea. In the “Edge of Robot: Ski Robot Challenge,” each of the eight participating teams entered a self-driving robot, who had to navigate around red and blue flagpoles. In order to compete, the robots had to meet specific requirements: two-legged, joints mimicking elbows and knees, and a height of at least 50 centimeters.
Unlike the Boston Dynamics SpotMini, these guys are pretty cute and squat, and watching them crash into flagpoles and get caught by their creators is pretty fun. Plus, just like with small children who are fiendishly good at human skiing, the robot with the lowest center of gravity won.
At the end of the day, as much as I dislike them, these videos do demonstrate just how struggling and slow-moving our current robots are. They’ve got a long way to go before they can even hope to imitate the wonders and dynamism of the human body, and even longer before they can hope to overpower us in hand-to-hand combat. But, still. I’ve got my eye on these sneaky little Frankensteins.
Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!
—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—