The dystopian future predicted by so many of our best movies is finally on its way here, and we got to see it firsthand. Last week, the top roboticists in the world brought their game to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Trials. The most advanced robots in the world faced off head-to-head in a contest to see who gets to subjugate the human race in the not-too-distant future.
Let’s get something straight here. We’re not talking about cute little 2-foot tall robotic toys. For some reason, that’s what people usually think when they hear the word ‘robot’ these days, but that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about 7-foot tall humanoid monsters, the very robots that will, one day, turn against us and enslave humanity. These robots are the real deal – million-dollar machines that are getting pretty close to emulating human mobility in the real world.
Just check out Atlas or Schaft – these robots are straight of the movies, and already looking like they’re only a few generations removed from the super-awesome robots in Elysium. And since this is all funded by the DoD, you can be sure that every one of these robots will be able to handle assault weapons real soon. In fact, we’ve got just about everything we need to reenact Terminator 3 right now, and that’s what’s so scary about all of this.
At first, they exist to do the stuff humans can’t do, like running headlong into a collapsing nuclear plant to shut off the reactor, for example, and the stuff humans don’t want to do, like pretty much any physical labor – but the only difference between a friendly safety robot and an apocalyptic killing machine is a few lines of code.
Google is Skynet
Google has decided that the time of the robot has arrived – Google started buying up companies that build robots a few months ago, including the company behind the Atlas robot and the company behind the Schaft robot. So, of the top performing robots at the DARPA challenge, Google owns them. All of a sudden, Google makes the best robots in the world – that’s a big deal. Not that they weren’t already in the robot business.
Google Self-Driving Car
We were totally stoked to see Google showing off their self-driving car at the DRC. The Google geeks (and I say that with love!) briefed us on the project, and I even sat inside the car! It’s pretty much just like a regular car, with a giant spinning metal thing on top. About the size of a soccer ball, the sensor spins around super fast – watching, always watching, perched atop the Google-branded Lexus-like a silicon eye of Sauron. And good thing, too: The sensor is constantly on the lookout for pedestrians and other humans in order to avoid hitting them. As for manufacturing and distribution, the people we spoke to were pretty confident we’d be seeing these on the streets fairly soon, but the Google has yet to work out the actual logistics of it.
Pretty amazing, huh? No more DUI’s! The future is now! Almost!
The goal of the DRC is to generate groundbreaking research and development in hardware and software that will enable future robots, in tandem with human counterparts, to perform the most hazardous activities in disaster zones.
Participating teams are collaborating and innovating on a very short timeline to develop the hardware, software, sensors, and human- machine control interfaces that will enable their robots to complete a series of challenge tasks selected by DARPA for their relevance to disaster response. Three sequential DRC events place equal emphasis on hardware and software. The DRC Finals will occur at the end of 2014 and will require robots to attempt a circuit of consecutive physical tasks; the winning team will receive a $2 million prize.
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