Robo-Falls from the DARPA Robotics Challenge

Maybe our new robot overlords could use a hand up. The DARPA Robotics Challenge is going on today and tomorrow. There is a $2 million prize up for grabs, and the most advanced robots in the world are competing. Each robot is tasked with doing all these things in order:

1  Walk to a vehicle
2   Drive a vehicle
3   Open a door
4   Find and close a valve
5   Bust through a wall
6   A surprise task
7   Navigate some rubble
8   Climb up stairs

(YouTube link)

That’s a lot to ask of a machine. Popular Mechanics has 11 short videos of robots who did not quite perform perfectly. The overall impression is that of people who’ve had way too much to drink. And those are only from Friday morning, so there may be more added before the contest is finished. -via Digg

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I've said it before, I'll say it again...
I'm not sure why anyone would pursue replicating the human form factor with robotics. As Harrison Ford's character explained in The Mosquito Coast, the human body is horribly designed, accentuating (rather than protecting) all of its major weaknesses and foibles, always just a hair's-breadth away from a small mistake that leads to total failure (death).
The fails of these robots illustrate exactly what those weaknesses are and they are rooted in the weaknesses of the human form itself. Why not instead design to perform said tasks with a more robust form factor? It's only via millions of years of evolution that we've overcome our limitations by the minimum amount necessary to perform these actions ourselves. If you don't agree, try taking one misstep on a top stair. Take that tumble and realize how our bodies haven't adapted to even falling 15 feet in 1g without significant damage. Combining more animalistic traits (quadruped, etc) would make a more robust apex creature.
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