[Cyborg] stair climbing DARPA robot

Alaina Hardie alainahardie at gmail.com
Thu Apr 19 05:00:38 UTC 2012

I dunno, I find this quite exciting. This robot is just a mechanical object performing mechanical actions, albeit with some really great adaptability. As a roboticist it gives me great hope for the future of general-purpose robots. I mean, I have a hard time making Grrlbot's freaking wheeled base drive in a straight line, and I haven't even started to consider what would be required for her to walk up stairs or even get in an elevator and get out on the right floor. The thing that really troubles me is that it is funded by DARPA, rather than being a project that was created by hackers and makers.

As an aside, it's informative that we have such visceral reactions to videos like this. In one of his talks on the current state of robotics, Dan Barry shows the 2008 video of Big Dog getting kicked and recovering its footing at around 0:35 of this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1czBcnX1Ww. 

In addition to the obvious "holy crap" moment that roboticists and other technical people have (because they know what it must require for a robot to do that), a significant portion of the audience--myself included, the first time I saw it--has an "I can't believe you kicked that animal!" reaction.  He says (and I agree) that this indicates that we could readily develop emotional connections with robots. I'm already quite attached to my robot, and the only interesting things she does are follow me, perform head tracking, and spin around in circles when she is "happy".

I'm excited for the future, but it will definitely have to be managed carefully. 

- A

On 2012-04-18, at 8:57 PM, Andrew Cantino wrote:

> Watching that video gave me an actual visceral sense of fear.  The
> future is scary.
> @tectonic
> On Wed, Apr 18, 2012 at 11:15 AM, Eric Boyd <mrericboyd at yahoo.com> wrote:
>> http://singularityhub.com/2012/04/18/darpas-new-robot-conquers-stairs/
>> It's surprisingly organic looking, much more so than ASIMO (who is now
>> over a decade old, I guess).  It also intriguing to see that it uses an
>> arm to stabilize itself as it climbs the stairs - I wonder how necessary
>> that is?  You'd think it would be almost as much work to make a
>> functioning arm and write the software for using it for balance control
>> as it would be to just make the stair climbing legs / software not
>> require it!
>> I think this latest DARPA robot challenge should be super interesting to
>> watch!
>> Eric
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