You Have Nothing To Fear From These DARPA Robots

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Robotics Challenge crowned a winner over the weekend, but these malfunctioning ‘bots did not make the cut.

Some people dread the day that we could see robots take over, given the great improvements we’ve seen in robotics in recent years.

But the robots in the above video, produced by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Spectrum magazine, suggest that maybe we don’t have too much to fear. They malfunctioned during a dress rehearsal last Thursday, ahead of the competition.

“It’s amazing how we anthropomorphize these things,” DARPA program manager Dr. Gill Pratt said at a media briefing. “It’s a pile of aluminum and copper wire and software. I don’t cheer for my laptop. But people cheer for these [robots]. And of course when it falls, we all feel terrible, ‘Uh, it got hurt.’”

DARPA launched the Robotics Challenge in 2012 following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. The aim was to spur the development of robots that can respond to natural and man-made disasters by entering areas that are too dangerous for humans. Two increasingly demanding contests were held over the next two years and the final competition was held this past weekend.

Team KAIST from South Korea won the top $2 million prize with its DRC-Hubo machine. The robot completed the required tasks in under 45 minutes and almost six minutes ahead of the second-place finisher.

Florida’s Institute for Human and Machine Cognition team came in second with its Running Man robot and robot CHIMP, created by a team from Carnegie Mellon University, took third place.

“Today was incredible,” Pratt said during a news conference after the finals. “It was everything we hoped it would be and more.”

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