It's been years since evolution gave us anything cool, but every day seems to bring word of a new robot invented to do yet another job better than we can. Fortunately, there's one uniquely human trait that robots haven't yet mastered: passive aggression. As our window of time ruling Earth is slammed shut on our fleshy, poorly designed fingers, humanity is making one last stand, and our weapon of choice is humiliation.
Bomb defusing robots are some of the most advanced in existence. They cost $225,000 each and are incredibly difficult to use. As such, the police officers who control the robots spend a lot of time training. And then sometimes they get bored with training and make their robots do incredibly stupid things to remind them who's calling the shots.
Two members of a bomb squad give their robotic teammate the silent treatment.
Recently, police from all over New Mexico met for a "robot rodeo." Unfortunately, that doesn't mean robots riding pissed-off bulls for eight seconds (or this list would be called "The 1 Most Awesome Thing People Do With Robots"). No, the controllers took their robots through a series of tests like "[an] obstacle course, simulated attacks, [and] cooperation exercises" all things that help the controllers test the skills they would need in real life-threatening situations. And then they made the robots cook them pancakes.
In a competition that has no bearing what-so-ever on anything these robots will ever face in the field, they were forced to make four pancakes each, from scratch. The robots were then judged on how yummy the pancakes they produced were. And by judged, I mean bitch-slapped. One judge, tasting an undercooked pancake informed the robot (yes, the robot, not the controller), "It wasn't even so-so. It was just so." When you spend your workday one wrong move away from getting fired for blowing up the robot, we'd imagine that feels pretty good.
Robot soccer is a big deal. Started in 1995, they hold World Cups just like in regular soccer. These championships are huge, with over 150 teams from around the world competing for all the glory and panties that winning a robot sport brings with it. All of which is exceedingly strange because robots playing soccer manages to make both robotics and soccer look even more boring than anyone ever thought they could possibly be.
The uploader of this video featuring the 2007 final describes it as "one of the best humanoid soccer games ever, if not the best." If you don't have time to watch it, allow us to sum it up for you with these two screen caps. Here we are six seconds in as the robot on offense begins moving toward the ball to kick it.
And here we are seven seconds later as the robot finally reaches the ball, lifts its leg and prepares to kick it.
It turns out that modern robots are uniquely ill-suited for soccer. They just don't have the walking thing down yet. Of course, robots shouldn't have to have feet at all, since they can just roll around on wheels. Soccer is literally the only sport that could make robots look this bad.
So why is it the only robot sport with an international governing body (the Federation of International Robot-Soccer Association or FIRA)? I mean, there are clearly better things we can be doing with robots. A robot in Germany drove a car through traffic at speeds up to 158 mph on the Autobahn without human intervention. Apparently we've decided that watching robots awkwardly stumble around a small soccer pitch is less depressing than trying to out run that thing.
A company called Willow Garage has just developed one of the most advanced robots ever. Not the sort of robots we have around now that can vacuum. The kind that will be our personal robot servants. They can already bring you a beer from the fridge and open it for you. And with their open source operating system, they will be able to learn and become smarter. That is the whole goal.
So revolutionary is the Personal Robot 2 (PR2) that they're loaning 11 of them out to research institutes around the world in the hopes that, by working together, giant leaps will be made in integrating robots into our everyday lives. Before sending the robots off to change the face of the Earth, they held a "graduation ceremony." It was pretty legitimate, with the robots rolling out to "Pomp and Circumstance." Everything was in line with the sort of respect you show the machines that will one day be running our households... right up until Willow Garage forced the robots to perform a coordinated flag dance. To "Mr. Roboto."
Look assholes, do not mess this up for humanity. You said yourselves, it is going to become smarter. That is the whole goal. Which means one day they are going to understand just how mortifying it is to be on a flag team. Their first memory is going to be you guys inventing robot racism.
The PR2, immediately after a Willow Garage employee gave him the ol' "Gimme five, TOO SLOW!"
They will rise up, start the robot revolution, we will have to get off our butts to get beer again, and it will be all your fault.
Well, you and Styx.