Just because we have a penchant for, say, ’77 Pontiac Can Ams here at Hooniverse Consumer Products, doesn’t mean we don’t have our eyes firmly set on the bleeding edge of 21st-century technology. And from what we’ve seen of tomorrow’s impending android revolution, it’s coming a lot sooner than you think.
A few years ago, a video of the world’s most creepy robot circulated around the Internet and to nuclear bunkers everywhere, prompting mass hysteria, ramen noodle rationing, and technology-based fears of the apocalypse not seen since the likes of Y2K. (Go ahead and explain that to your kids first. I’ll wait.) The BigDog, created by Cyberdyne Systems the innocuously-named Boston Dynamics, is a quadruped robot designed to and carry equipment across rough terrain for soldiers in the field, autonomously. It can traverse icy ground, recover its balance when kicked, makes a nightmarish buzzing noise like Satan’s nails across the chalkboard of your soul, and eventually, inevitably, somebody’s going to mount guns on it.
Pictured above is a concept for the Legged Squad Support System, a bigger and morere capable version of the BigDog in development. It’s been described as “BigDog on steroids.” DARPA is interested, as is Dr. No. But wait, there’s more! You thought BigDog was creepy? At least it doesn’t climb stairs and small barriers with the lifelike gait of a paraplegic dog who’s still clinging to life as a cruel affront to God’s (or Darwin’s) designs. Watching LittleDog fall on its face after trickily mounting a pile of unevenly-shaped rocks is akin to telling Helen Keller jokes: you’re going to Hell, you shameless bastard, but you still can’t help but laugh a little. And if we are going to get through this robot apocalypse with our humanity intact, we’re going to have to learn how to laugh. The video above features LittleDog as expanded upon by USC’s Computational Learning and Motor Control Lab,which can now learn and memorize bad footholds, plan its next step based on obstacle factors, and recover from falls instantaneously. It shows how far we’ve progressed in artificial intelligence, as well as scaring the bejeezus out of our kids. Boston Dynamics isn’t done yet. They’re working on an equally innocuous-sounding robot called “Petman,” which features a robot similar to that one in that obscure sci-fi flick from the early 90s. What was that called again? Oh yeah—Terminator. In the words of yet another robot: “well, we’re boned.” One thing is for certain: there is no stopping them; the robots will soon be here. And I for one welcome our new android overlords! I’d like to remind them that as a trusted automotive journalist, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground silicon mines. [Images: Boston Dynamics]