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Meet OutRunner, The World’s New Fastest Robot

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outrunnerThe world’s fastest robot used to belong to Boston Dynamics. Everything that used to belong to Boston Dynamics now belongs to Google, and now their robot cheetah, which could beat Usain Bolt in a foot race, has been dethroned. The good news for the robot cheetah is that it’s still the fastest robot on four legs, but the six-legged OutRunner can run up to 45 miles an hour on a treadmill.

Florida-based company Robotics Unlimited designed the aptly-named OutRunner, which is also the world’s first remote-controlled running robot. At a top speed of 45 mph, it leaves the robot cheetah, which can reach just over 28 mph on a treadmill, in the dust. Outside, OutRunner clocks 25 miles per hour, while robot cheetah slows down to 16 mph. OutRunner has six legs—three on each side—which it spins kind of like a windmill as it whirls down the road. Its design is actually meant to emulate the human form, which is a departure from the technique of most of these robots. It’s also incredibly stable, balancing itself on even rugged terrain, and can run for two hours on a single charge.

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Robots To Replace Fast Food Workers And Run Amazon Warehouses

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MinimumWageRobot

Ad in the Wall Street Journal

“They took our job!” may soon be the battle cry of fast food and warehouse workers across the world. We’ve all known it was coming for a while, even before the first days of automatic checkout aisles at the grocery store, but plans to replace human workers with robots are developing at restaurants such as Panera Bread, Applebee’s, and Chili’s, and even Amazon.

As the fight to increase minimum wage rages on, workers from McDonald’s and other fast food chains have protested their low wages, which are too scant to make a living. It would seem that raising the minimum wage would be a sound way to address this problem, but if we’ve learned anything from watching House of Cards, it’s that politicians aren’t terribly interested in the sound and logical. Thus, the obvious plan is to replace these workers with robots.

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Lightning-Quick Robot Can Catch Major League Pitch

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At this point, we’re pretty used to reading articles and watching videos about robots who can perform a host of tasks more efficiently than humans. The number and range of such tasks continues to grow exponentially, leaving me wondering if we’re really only better at writing articles about the ways robots are superior. Just kidding — they could do that better too. Here’s another skill robots have mastered: the ability to react quickly enough to catch objects thrown at them, even if those objects are thrown at the speed of an MLB pitch.

If you’ve ever watched Asimo fall down the stairs, or watched how slowly the robots competing in the DARPA Robotics Challenge complete their tasks, you know robots aren’t usually particularly nimble (but don’t worry—DARPA’s on it.) But researchers at Switzerland’s Learning Algorithms and System Laboratory (LASA) created a robotic arm that is as good at catching objects as this robot is at winning rock, paper, scissors.

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DARPA Wants Robots To Work Together To Kick Ass

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robot_armyDARPA’s got biotech, transformers and robots, so what’s next on their agenda? Robotic teamwork. DARPA has issued a request for proposals “in the area of advanced collaborative autonomy for aerial platforms.” They’re looking primarily for software, but “to a lesser extent,” hardware as well. They’re particularly seeking research leading to “evolutionary improvements to the existing state of practice.” In other words, they’re looking for robots or drones that can communicate, assemble, and coordinate attacks or other missions from the air by themselves.

What I think is interesting is that DARPA’s taking humans out of the equation. Human-robot teamwork has been a priority when it comes to robotic development, particularly in the workplace. While humans do the programming and issue commands, DARPA’s looking for a fleet that doesn’t need humans for anything else. Hello, Skynet.

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See How Robots Evolve Over 1,000 Generations

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evolution-robotsWhen most people think of robots evolving, they think of them learning and adapting to new situations. That’s definitely part of the equation, but chances are those folks are forgetting one key aspect: mating. It might seem crazy, given that reproduction is something automatons haven’t mastered just yet, but they can theoretically mate. It’s probably not as much fun as the real thing, but robots can make decisions that would affect their mating strategies, if they were indeed able to physically reproduce. Scientists studied this kind of evolution and found that the subjects in question didn’t evolve to embrace one specific strategy for propagation, they actually devised two.

Researchers from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology put four small, two-wheeled robots equipped with cameras and infrared ports for “mating” in a small area with between 4-16 batteries representing food sources. They programmed the droids to decide what to do based on their energy levels, the location of the nearest battery, and the location of the nearest robot. They then decided whether it wanted to look for “food,” or pursue another for mating, or wait for someone else to come to them. Then the researcher left the subjects on their own, hoping that the results would shed light on polymorphism, or different forms within a single species. Polymorphism results from evolution like other traits, and the aspect these researchers were particularly interested in is the development of mating strategies among a single population.

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Creationists Study The Interactions Between Robots And Humanity

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nao robotScientists from many disciplines are busy studying the interactions between humans and robots, and trying to discern the impact of such relationships. Whether it’s teaching autistic children, reducing feelings of isolation in space, or using them as proxies, we’re going to be spending more time with robots. Maybe this will lead to Her style scenarios, or perhaps those more reminiscent of Spielberg’s AI. Only time will tell, but that doesn’t stop us from designing studies and trying to predict the effects. Even creationists can’t resist the pull of automatons. aAgroup of fundamentalist Christians has purchased one of those adorable Nao robots and plan to use it to conduct their own study about the effects of robots on humanity.