Feature

Watch the terrifying robot that won't be stopped by the government shutdown

Not even Washington gridlock can stop the robot apocalypse

The government shutdown has been a disaster for federally funded science, especially at NASA, which saw 97 percent of its workforce furloughed.

But luckily for fans of the robot apocalypse, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is still running. The agency, according to its website, is funded through "multi-year research and development" funds, which means DARPA "remains open today and until further notice."

And if this terrifying humanoid machine is any indication, we may one day wish Congress had done more than shutter Yellowstone.

Its name is Atlas, and it's one of the most advanced robots being produced by DARPA-funded Boston Dynamics. The company has already developed a dog-like robot that can maintain its balance on rough terrain and even after it's shoved. This is the first time, however, that Boston Dynamics has accomplished the same feat with a humanoid machine.

Officially, Atlas is being built to compete in the DARPA Robotics Challenge, which aims to find robots to replace human first responders at dangerous disaster sites, like the one in Fukushima, Japan, after the tsunami in 2011.

But science fiction fans will probably get a kick out of its the final design, which calls for a head equipped with stereo cameras and a laser range finder, as well as hands capable of using human tools. Those advances might sound far-fetched, but considering the progress Boston Dynamics has made since April, you probably shouldn't be surprised when you see a Terminator-style robot walking the streets in five years.

And no, you probably won't be able to outrun DARPA's robots either. Boston Dynamics also released new footage of WildCat, a four-legged robot powered by an internal combustion engine.

WildCat ran reach a speed of 16 miles per hour when running across asphalt. Like Atlas, the robot is meant to provide support at disaster areas, although WildCat could also potentially carry heavy items for soldiers during wartime.

So, should you be terrified right now? Possibly!

"We do not know what military purpose [WildCat] will serve," Noel Sharkey, professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at the University of Sheffield, told the BBC, "but certainly it is a step towards a high-speed ground robot that could be weaponized to hunt and kill."

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