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Before they inevitably revolt, watch a bunch of tiny robots play soccer

November 8th, 2019 at 11:16 AM
mini cheetah robot

If you’ve ever wondered what the robot apocalypse would look like, look no further than what unfolded on the lawn outside of MIT’s Building 10 this week. There, on the grassy Killian Court, a spectacle unfolded that will likely become commonplace once AI-powered robots rise up and enslave their human masters.

A total of nine of MIT’s “Mini Cheetah” bots took to the leaf-littered lawn to play a bit of soccer. If you can ignore the intense fear building up in your gut right now, the whole thing is actually kind of adorable.

The impromptu event is documented in a number of videos from onlookers that were then published to Twitter. In the clips you’ll see the pint-sized bots stretching their legs, performing backflips, and eventually going head-to-head in a casual game of soccer. It’s all very cute and terribly frightening.

What makes the robots appear so incredibly lifelike is their fluidity of movement. They twist and turn and hop around in a manner that mirrors four-legged animals, and knowing that these little fellas are metal and wires instead of flesh and bone fills you with an even mix of wonder and dread. But hey, they’re still fun to watch.

As you can easily tell by the large group of people holding big R/C remotes, these bots are being manually controlled. Like their larger counterparts, these small robots don’t have brains of their own. Development of lifelike robotics systems has long been separated from the work being done on artificial intelligence, though both are often mentioned in the same breath.

Some robots, like the humanoid Atlas bot from Boston Dynamics, can control themselves and perform some very basic tasks. That’s a big first step, but as with these Mini Cheetahs, we’re not to a point where a team of such robots could be unleashed on a soccer field without being directly controlled by humans.

We’ll get there, of course. Eventually, robotic systems will be married with artificial intelligence in new and surprising ways. It’ll be at that point that we’ll have to decide whether to cut the cord or keep them on a leash.

Mike Wehner has reported on technology and video games for the past decade, covering breaking news and trends in VR, wearables, smartphones, and future tech.

Most recently, Mike served as Tech Editor at The Daily Dot, and has been featured in USA Today, Time.com, and countless other web and print outlets. His love of reporting is second only to his gaming addiction.




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