We’ve followed the rise of Google’s robot, Atlas, from his debut to his pratfalls. We’ve joked about being terrified of it, but that was just a joke. Because if it comes down to it, we could always hide in the woods. Well, not anymore we can’t! Thanks, Boston Dynamics! You shouldn’t have! No, really, why did you do this?
The technology above is impressive, though. We’ve laid out before that Atlas and other robots have substantial challenges to actually exploring the real world. Robots aren’t good at improvising and machine vision is not spectacular at spotting, say, roots, so bumpy terrain with lots of hard-to-see obstacles might as well be a sheer cliff face covered in Teflon for your average walking robot. Being able to lick that problem is a major step forward in having robots actually among us. Atlas still needs a power tether to walk along bucolic trails and find filthy hoo-mans hiding from the robot uprising, but he’s already battery-powered in the lab, and this actually puts Atlas much closer to being out in the world.
Of course, this does raise the question of why Google wants Atlas out in the world in the first place. The company hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with its robot plans, although there are a few obvious uses. Personally, we hope it’s to create a Comments Section Civility Enforcement Division. A risk of being clubbed by robots would probably go a long way toward improving the Internet.
(Via Michael Campbell)