Pffft, so much for its reputation as a badass Terminator-style killer android. In front of dozens of journalists yesterday in Hong Kong, the 330 pound (150 kg) Atlas lost its balance and broke its right ankle during a rather simple walking demonstration.
The media event got off to a good start when the 6.5-foot-tall (2 m) Atlas performed graceful Tai Chi movements to music (uh...I can't imagine a T-1000 doing the same). But things went horribly wrong during the walking portion of the demonstration. The Hong Kong Standard reports:
A computer showed what it could see through its eyes — leaving everyone gasping.
However, when it tried to step over and cross an obstacle, it stumbled.
It failed again while trying to point at objects and broke its ankle.
"Please forgive him. He's just a baby trying to learn," said project leader Wyatt Newman.
Newman said Atlas had earlier broken its left ankle and an expert had to be flown in from the United States to fix it.
This means the fleet of DARPA-funded robots is down from seven to six. Yes, you read that correctly — there are seven of these suckers out there, each costing about $2m. Its developer, Boston Dynamics, says that the point of the research is to create robots that can negotiate difficult outdoor terrain while picking up objects and carrying them in its arms.
Normally, Atlas is pretty capable. Watch it navigate through these rocks and regain its balance when struck with a heavy object from the side:
But one thing the Hong Kong demonstration illustrates, is that human-mimicry in robotics is not necessarily the most ideal solution. We're kinda wonky. Owing to our tall, bipedal nature and incredibly fragile ankles, our form is hardly optimized for these sorts of tasks.