Robot Apocalypse Postponed: Watch DARPA Finalists Fall Down

Robot Apocalypse Postponed: Watch DARPA Finalists Fall Down

The DARPA Robotics Challenge was held last week and will be remembered for one thing - watching our robot overlords stumble into the ground.

We here at The Escapist like to joke about the robot apocalypse on occasion, but in all honesty most of us probably aren't that concerned. Robotics technology is still some time away from being self-sufficient enough to destroy us all, and in fact has great trouble just opening doors. This was proven fairly conclusively last week, when DARPA ran its Robotics Challenge Competition and saw many finalists crash spectacularly to the ground while attempting very basic tasks. So while the tech is certainly very impressive, we probably don't need to be concerned just yet - as a newly released compilation video from the event proves.

What's really surprising is that the falls likely were a huge surprise to designers as well. DARPA originally allowed teams to run a "dress rehearsal" course for the robots last Thursday, and it had very few problems. I don't know if it was an especially windy day, or if robots slack off after Friday like the rest of us, but there were multiple examples of robots not being able to keep their footing. The slightest error seemed to throw the entire robot off course in ways that would make for hilarious deleted scenes in The Terminator.

Now the flip side is that while robots fell, they rarely suffered any substantial damage - after picking them up, dusting them off, and initiating a reboot, most were able to complete the course. In fact, Team IHMC's Atlas robot actually fell twice during its test and was still able to score 7 out of 8 points. In human competitions, many athletes probably wouldn't fare so well after accidents bending their limbs in similar directions. In fact, more than a few of these falls left me wincing and concerned for their state.

"It's amazing how we anthropomorphize these things," DARPA program manager Dr. Gill Pratt noted. "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.'"

Wait, is that the plan? Let these robots stumble their way into our hearts so that we sympathize with them during the uprising? If that's the case, mission accomplished. Well played, Skynet. Well played.

Source: IEEE Spectrum

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Huh...and here I didn't know that robots could get drunk. :P

I wonder how sad people in the 80s would be if they knew this is how far we got with robots...

Yesterday I catched a reprise of Blade Runner in theaters (fucking glorious by the way, to be able to see it on the big screen) and I was reminded that pretty much right now we're supposed to have skin jobs, and in around 4 years they won't even know they're not human.

And then I see this video and I just laugh.

Hah, what kind of dumbass machine falls over with very little force?

<---

I love the guys who just suddenly throw themselves on the ground, "Nope, too hard!"
Also the last one with his jittery legs was adorable.

Can I just ask why we're all so fixated on bipedal robots? Don't get me wrong, I want them to advance because that also pushes human cybernetics potential forward, but it seems really impractical in most situations. Maybe I'm just being short sighted...

shirkbot:
Can I just ask why we're all so fixated on bipedal robots? Don't get me wrong, I want them to advance because that also pushes human cybernetics potential forward, but it seems really impractical in most situations. Maybe I'm just being short sighted...

In fairness, once the control limitations are resolves, legged configurations would actually be a very efficient mode of locomotion through tight spaces and over uneven terrain.

Guys, be nice, they're trying their best under a lot of pressure.

shirkbot:
Can I just ask why we're all so fixated on bipedal robots?

They generally navigate human-created environments much better than quadrupedal, tracked or wheeled forms. Using them to assist (or replace) human workers would be much easier.

I especially like the robot at 0:56 who stares perplexedly at the door and then just commits suicide. xD

Looks like i noticed the problem. their center of mass was way too high. thats probably because they carried batteries as backpacks most of the time.

Though the emphasis on humanoid robots seems to be odd. didnt we already prove thats not a great for for robotic workforce?

Smooth Operator:
I love the guys who just suddenly throw themselves on the ground, "Nope, too hard!"
Also the last one with his jittery legs was adorable.

yeah, that one was like "fuck it im going home".

The Rogue Wolf:
[
They generally navigate human-created environments much better than quadrupedal, tracked or wheeled forms. Using them to assist (or replace) human workers would be much easier.

But current robotics prove otherwise. basically all robot workforce we have right now is nowhere close to looking like humans let alone bipedals. And it seems that quadrupedals work much better (cheetah) as well as those self learning spiders that can function even with most legs damaged. I can udnerstand wheels being bad for stairs are thier enemy, but that does not limit us to bipedals. the reason we get away with being bipedal is because we can correct balance quickly. robots dont know how to do that.

FogHornG36:
I wonder how sad people in the 80s would be if they knew this is how far we got with robots...

All the people worried about Terminators, Colossus (The Forbin Project), AM (I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream), and various Doctor Who plots (like The War Machines, for instance) must be quite happy.

OT: Patience, guys. It's like teaching a baby with no instincts how to walk. It's not easy. We have to properly-define its universe first.

Rofl. Some of those are just... so hilariously random.

A lot you can see are just losing their balance, much the same way a human would. (but a human wouldn't fall as easily).
But some of them really just seemed to fall over for no reason.

Especially near that door.
I mean, the one that just crumpled in on itself without warning?
Or how about falling over backwards for no reason?

Trying to turn a non-existent door knob was funny though. XD
Wonder what happened there?

Strazdas:

But current robotics prove otherwise. basically all robot workforce we have right now is nowhere close to looking like humans let alone bipedals. And it seems that quadrupedals work much better (cheetah) as well as those self learning spiders that can function even with most legs damaged. I can udnerstand wheels being bad for stairs are thier enemy, but that does not limit us to bipedals. the reason we get away with being bipedal is because we can correct balance quickly. robots dont know how to do that.

I think it's inspired by the challenge of it. I mean, this is a research thing. Sometimes, you just want to do things that are difficult to prove that you can.

About the balance thing though... On a superficial examination of the available technology at the moment, (mainstream, commodity tech, I mean, not experimental stuff), it shouldn't be all that difficult to make a robot able to sense it's balance very quickly, and know when it's off...

That makes me wonder why they are so clumsy anyway. My best guess (from observation) is most robots have absolutely atrocious locomotion systems.
Movements are slow, and ponderous at best, and there doesn't seem to be any scope for quick, precise movements.

So I guess the technological failing point here isn't a robot's potential to have a sense of balance, (though it may be a challenge to correctly identify at what kind of positions it would start to lose it's balance. That's an experiential thing; Same kind of problem as the one that is involved in a damaged robot figuring out how to walk anyway, even with the damage).
It seems the bigger problem is it can't move it's limbs quickly enough to compensate, even if it knows it's balance is going, and it's about to fall...

 

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