If you’re in the camp of the robot uprising, I suggest you watch the video above. It might change your mind.
This video, compiled by the fine folks at IEEE Spectrum, is from Day 1 of the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals, a two-day competition that requires the world’s most advanced robots to conquer an obstacle course designed to replicate an emergency or disaster rescue mission.
There were eight obstacles that required the robots to walk over debris, drive vehicles, climb stairs, cut through walls, open doors, close valves, and more. DARPA made the finals harder for the robots by not allowing them to be tethered, which in previous competitions kept them from falling.
Well, turns out the tethers were sorely missed. Only three of the 24 teams competing were able to perform all eight tasks. And the falls, oh, the falls. They came early and they came often.
“These robots are big and made of lots of metal and you might assume people seeing them would be filled with fear and anxiety,” DRC organizer Gill Pratt says. “But we heard groans of sympathy when those robots fell. And what did people do every time a robot scored a point? They cheered! It’s an extraordinary thing, and I think this is one of the biggest lessons from DRC – the potential for robots not only to perform technical tasks for us, but to help connect people to one another.”
The first DARPA challenge was more than a decade ago, and some of the phrases used to describe these past iterations include “watching paint dry” and “watching grass grow.”
Certainly progress has been made, and the performance by the DRC-Hubo robot that won DARPA’s $2 million grand prize was impressive, but the thought of a robot uprising seems like science fiction after watching this video.