The video: What can't machines do these days? First, a supercomputer proved it was smarter — or at least quicker on the draw — than mortal "Jeopardy!" contestants. Now, a few Japanese machines are set to prove their fitness bona fides by completing an entire marathon. (Watch a warmup below.) Four robots will compete in the race, which begins in Osaka on Thursday. The tallest competitor is only 16 inches high, one is perched on two wheels, and at least one comes equipped with a 1.3-megapixel camera for navigation. The race will test their endurance; to finish, the robots will have to circle the 100-meter course 421 times (plus another 95 meters) over the course of four days.
The reaction: With built-in pit stops for battery changes, this race is "sort of like robot NASCAR," says Aaron Saenz at Singularity Hub. But durability is important; and "a bot that has the staying power to really serve the human race" would be a useful development. A robot marathon "might not be as fun as a ballet or a robo soccer game," says Rebecca Boyle at Popular Science. But the ability of machines to survive wear and tear "will probably be more important than a single trick once we welcome them into our lives." Watch the robots warm up: