One day, the 6-foot tall humanoid robot commissioned by the US government is taught karate, and the next thing you know, humanity is wiped off the face of the Earth. This is perfectly plausible, isn’t it?
Many of us are terrified at the idea that robots will someday become self-aware and will consider humankind unnecessary for its future development. At that point, robots would probably learn in an instant all sorts of gruesome ways to terminate us, but roboticists thought that teaching them karate wouldn’t be such a bad idea. You, to cut down some of their effort! ATLAS, the humanoid robot built by IHMC Robotics, already is quite intimidating, as it stands 6 feet tall. On top of that, its developers programmed him to keep his balance on one foot, in what what looks very much like the Crane Kick karate stance from The Karate Kid.
As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what the roboticists behind this humanoid robot went for when they released a video aptly titled ATLAS KarateKid on YouTube. I guess the next logical step is to teach ATLAS to sand the floor, wax on and wax off, paint the fence, and catch flies. After that, we might as well turn off the light and leave by ourselves, before the mechanical units decide to take over.
Apparently, the crane kick stance is precursory to jumping, something that robots are not particularly good at (phew!). Balance is not that difficult to master when it’s a quadruped robot we’re talking about. Both DARPA’s Big Dog (or China’s Da Gou version) quadruped and Boston Dynamics’ PETMAN bipedal robot keep their balance when they are kicked, but they’re using all of their feet in the initial position. In that context, what IHMC Robotics has done with ATLAS is impressive, even though we don’t know how this humanoid robot would react when kicked.
ATLAS was taught this particular stance for the DARPA Robotics Challenge finals, where it will compete against others of its kind. Let’s just hope that they won’t plot against us, as some of us really like this planet and wouldn’t mind living on it just a little bit longer, until we find our way to the stars. Remember, Mars is entirely populated by robots. Do you want Earth to be the same?
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