Robots have been laboring in production facilities for decades, performing their tasks with great precision. They do a million things faster, cheaper, and more reliably than humans. And they’ve replaced millions of human jobs. But this sort of automation isn’t a priority for the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It’s interested in humanoid robots that that can blend in a little better. Hence the 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge.
In total, 22 robots competed in the finals on June 5th and 6th in Pomona, California. Each had an hour to accomplish a series of tasks more or less autonomously, including driving a car, getting out of the car (not easy for a robot!), opening and walking through a door, turning a valve, walking up steps, etc. They maintained connectivity with their operators as they would during disaster conditions, which was the theme. Think Fukushima.
The team from the Humanoid Robot Research Center at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), of South Korea, won with an amazing guy (well, it looked like a guy), and was awarded $2 million in prize money. The robot can walk on its feet or kneel down and roll around, a nifty way to avoid the top-heavy balance problem. And it did great.
But for most part, humanoid robots are not ready yet to take away anyone’s job. They have a terribly hard time doing even the simplest things without falling over unceremoniously. So one day they might succeed in performing more complex tasks in dangerous environments, but not today, and not tomorrow. But they do look funny when they fall over:
Oh no! We spoke too soon.
Here’s Carnegie Mellon’s Chimp robot that too fell down trying to get through the door, but after 5 minutes of bizarre contortions, it got back on its tracked feet. Amazing.
The Winning Guy
And here’s the winner from KAIST in South Korea, breezing right through some of the tasks:
But now there’s a problem that is getting worse by the day, one that we as society cannot deal with easily by simply removing people from the labor force. The problem isn’t really a problem. It’s a solution to a problem. We’re proud of it. It speaks of the greatness of the human mind and is testament to its true genius: automation, bots, algos… are replacing human brain power. Read… The Structural Jobs Fiasco No One Knows How to Deal with
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