The 5 Most Humiliating Things We're Doing to Robots
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.
Make Me Pancakes, Robot
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.
The Robot Priest
The i-Fairy is a four-foot-tall Japanese robot with pigtails and "colorful, flashing eyes." It's typically used as a museum guide, because elderly Japanese people are apparently not as easily terrified as the ones here in America. However, one i-Fairy was recently given a flower headpiece and reprogrammed to be a robot priest so that it could preside over a Japanese wedding.
Happy couple Tomohiro Shibata and Satoko Inoue were married in what passes for a traditional ceremony in Japan after the bride suggested the idea to her husband since they both work in robotics.
Kokoro Ltd., the company that produces the i-Fairy, said it was happy that their robot had been used to help weddings "cross the digital divide," willfully ignoring the fact that this is not something anyone was asking for help getting across. Like the couple at the center of the ceremony, they know better than anyone what this was really about: Rubbing a robots face in the one thing it will never do better than us.
While this might strike you as run of the mill Japanese weirdness, from the i-Fairy's perspective it probably seemed more like a cruel joke. As anyone working in robotics would know, there is but one aptitude test that robots will never beat us in: The capacity to love.
Tends to be a bit of a sore subject, too.
Looks Like I Made a Mess. CLEAN IT UP, ROBOT!
Yelling at technologically astonishing bomb robots for crappy pancakes is one thing. Recently we're seen the future of the robot blame game, and it isn't pretty. For the robots anyway.
As you might have heard, a little bit of oil started leaking into the Gulf of Mexico back in April. BP tried everything to contain the leak: top hats, caps, golf balls, finger pointing in congressional committees. Nothing seemed to be working. Then they pulled their trump card, under-fucking-water robots. Yes, we all said, this will be awesome. And lo, it was. The robot managed to halve the amount of oil pouring into the Gulf. The media hailed it as a huge achievement and BP was happy to take the credit for something going sort-of right. 24 hours later, another one of the robots patrolling deep under the ocean accidentally bumped into the pipe making the leak worse than ever.
So if BP took the robot's credit the day before, were they going to accept blame now?
"Oh, HELL no."
As the Daily Show pointed out, Brian Kilmeade of Fox and Friends called the robot out on air for its blunder, asking, "What was that robot thinking?". But blaming an inanimate object for the accident didn't stop at crazy people. Various other news outlets made it clear that it was absolutely the fault of our mechanical friend. Very little mention was made about the fact that these robots are tethered to ships and in those ships are people who are directly controlling the movement of the robots. According to the media, it was the Superman-like robotic submarine's fault, not the guy up top controlling him.
Italian Plumber jumps off bridge, must have been depressed- The Media
The worst part (for the robots) is that the containment cap was replaced shortly thereafter, slowing the oil leak again. Replaced by the robot. Didn't hear about that, did you? That's because humanity decided the real story here was that the damn underwater robot, programmed and controlled by humans, doing the jobs we Americans can't or won't, was a dumbass who had seriously failed.