Until now, I would never have thought it possible to dribble with terrifying efficiency. When you first see Ishikawa Hashimoto Laboratory's Multi-fingered Robot Hands in motion, it looks like somebody designed and built a nerd-bot. It just spazzes out and flails frantically whenever a ball is tossed in its direction. Then the footage slows down, and you realize that even if the Harlem Globetrotters were right, and Armageddon does come down to a basketball game for the fate of the world, the robots will still have the upper hand. Probably hundreds of them, actually.
From the aforementioned dribbling, to tossing and catching a piece of foam, to idly spinning a pen -- IHL's Robot Hands seem to have one mission in this world: To take pedestrian tasks and utterly corrupt them. And my, how they succeed: From this day forward, you'll never be able to watch a simple game of catch without your stomach churning for reasons you cannot fully comprehend.
The Telenoid R1 Telepresence Robot is ostensibly meant to help busy Japanese families visit with their elderly parents in a more personal way, by mimicking their body language and facial expressions during phone calls. This should go without saying, but if you're the type of person who can't be assed to make it out to grandma's for the weekend, the next logical step is not moving a robot into their house that looks like Michael Stipe fucked a seal and somebody botched the abortion. Watch that video: The whole time it's flopping and nodding up there, you know it's just waiting for the old man to turn his back so it can crawl into one of his orifices and take control of his body. Oh, and in case you didn't think it could get worse, here's what it looks like when you actually get a call:
It sits there, totally inert... until the phone rings. Then it abruptly opens its mouth, gasps, and snaps into life, staring at you expectantly with it's non-face and fucking black shark eyes. That's how you answer a call. Or rather, that's how you receive a call. How you "answer" a call is with endless, frantic screaming, followed by six heart-attacks and a funeral.
It's on sale for about 8,000 dollars, and there you have it: The exact dollar figure it takes to let your elderly parents know that you have always, always hated them.
You might recognize the name Boston Dynamics from one of their earlier creations, Big Dog: The very first robot to turn the mere act of walking into nightmare fuel. If not, here you go! Welcome to the party: There's chips in the living room and we're all going to form a sobbing circle in the living room about eight, just before the suicide pact kicks in.
The video up top is of their newest striding horror, Petman. It's got all the unsettling, nauseating, not-quite-life of Big Dog, but this time it's making a mockery out of people instead of our four-legged friends. The technology itself is kind of a big deal, because Petman utilizes a human-like heel/toe stride instead of the more hesitant, unstable stomping that other robots employ. And at about 25 seconds in, thanks to the bravest (and soon to be most-kicked-to-death) intern at Boston Dynamics, you can really see that stability on display when the man tries, and fails to push it over. It should also be noted that nobody bought it those goofy tennis shoes: They all just showed up to the lab one morning to find it already wearing them. On an unrelated note: Dr. Witstein's niece Penny went missing on her tour of the lab the other day, and her family is very concerned. Please call Security if you have any information.
Oh, but Petman is just the beta version -- a demonstration of the walking concept. The actual robot to be deployed on the battlefield is called Atlas, and here's a quote explaining it, pulled from Boston Dynamics' own promo text: "Atlas will have a torso, two arms and two legs, and will be capable of climbing and maneuvering in rough terrain. It will sometimes walk upright as a biped, sometimes turning sideways to squeeze through narrow passages, and sometimes crawl, using its hands for extra support, speed and balance."
Whatever the hell this is, I'm sure nobody will ever regret giving it "extra speed."
Picture it: It's a foggy night, and you're on your way home from the late shift at work. In the distance, you hear strange, muffled footsteps. You can't quite pinpoint where they're coming from, but there's just something...off about the gait: It's bouncy and a little unsteady, like a happy drunk, but moving way too fast for that. Eventually, a form resolves out of the mist. It is something like a man, but broader, more angular, and -- good god, lacking a head! It approaches you quickly, and with purpose. You finally snap out of the shock, and turn to flee. You glance back over your shoulder, just in time to see it drop to all fours, like an ape, the skittering footsteps picking up speed...
Oh, man. I'm sorry. I'm over-reacting again, aren't I? Atlas clearly isn't built to chase down human prey.
That's Cheetah, their next project already in the works right now.
You can buy Robert's book, Everything is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook or you could just start running. Apparently you're going to need the head start.