Opinion Brief

Pet-Proto: The U.S. military's clumsy humanoid rescue robot

DARPA wants its next generation of machines to run, jump, and climb like ninjas, but they're not quite there yet

The video: If DARPA's new human-like machine is any indication, we won't have much to fear in the event of a robot apocalypse. Nicknamed Pet-Proto, the new bot from the U.S. military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency can run, jump, climb over objects, and reportedly even drive a car. (Watch a video below.) The tricky part about programming these kind of bipedal robots, though, is getting them to maintain their balance, says Spencer Ackerman at Wired, something we humans don't have to worry much about. "Getting a robot to climb across an industrial catwalk and operate power tools is a massively complex endeavor for mobility and autonomy." This model, manufactured by Boston Dynamics is, the military says, merely a precursor to DARPA's upcoming Atlas project, which the agency hopes will produce machines that fight fires and conduct dangerous repair work in nuclear reactors — otherwise going where human lives would be put at huge risk.

The reaction: The goal with this prototype is to build a bot capable of completing an obstacle course that would challenge an able-bodied human, says Will Oremus at Slate. Although Pet-Proto completes the tasks successfully, he ambles over impediments kind of like "a drunken sailor." Hmmm. All of this sounds like DARPA wants to build some sort of nimble Terminator, says Rollin Bishop at Geekosystem. Looks like this machine's Ninja Warrior future "will just have to wait." Take a look:

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