‘Rise of the Robots’ chronicles race to build disaster-relief bots | Science News

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‘Rise of the Robots’ chronicles race to build disaster-relief bots

TV documentary highlights challenges of designing humanlike machines

By
7:00am, February 7, 2016
Hubo

A humanoid robot named Hubo uses a mechanical hand to turn a valve at the finals of the DARPA Robotics Challenge in California. 

At the 2013 trials of DARPA’s robotics competition in Florida, a high-tech robot named Hubo had just about completed a tricky challenge: climbing up a ladder roughly the height of a small elephant.

Hubo, a 5-foot-tall walking bot, was pitting its skills against a slew of formidable contenders, all in a contest designed to simulate what rescue robots might face in a disaster. Hubo had already climbed eight of the ladder’s nine rungs — more than any other bot in the competition.

Then, Hubo tipped over and plunged off the ladder, dangling from a safety wire like a dancing marionette.

The bot’s rise and fall illustrates the state of humanoid robotics today, suggests “Rise of the Robots,” a documentary from the TV series NOVA that will air February 24 on PBS. Roboticists have created all sorts of fancy machines that can do all sorts of impressive things,

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