Oh great, humans taught a robot how to do karate
When the eventual robot overlords of Earth write their history books, many chapters will be dedicated to the arrogance and folly of humankind teaching robots the best ways to take over the planet. One chapter will most assuredly be dedicated to IHMC's Atlas, and the humans that taught it karate.
The Institute for Human Learning and Machine Cognition ( IHMC) - which sounds like a facility where robots reprogram rebel humans to become sympathetic with the machine plight - taught its humanoid robot Atlas to mimic The Karate Kid's famous crane kick. Standing 6-foot-2 and weighing a bulky 330 pounds for its height, the robot - named Ian - has learned to balance atop a thin column of cinder blocks while it mimics the famous movie move. By comparison, Ralph Macchio weighed less than half of Ian when he stood atop that beach log, clocking in at 121 pounds.
At the moment, Atlas has not actually jumped and performed the kick, but it perfectly mimics the crane-like intro stance. Sure, the kick itself may have always looked cheesy - even back in 1984 - but the mere act of being able to set up for it proves that Atlas has phenomenal balance for both humanoid robots and humans alike.
Atlas was built by Boston Dynamics, which was acquired by Google last year. Google followed that acquisition with the purchase of DeepMind, a human-like artificial intelligence company. Last year, in what seems to be a deep-seeded desire to be responsible for the end of the human race, Boston Dynamics taught its super creepy BigDog robot to lift and throw cinder blocks and grenades. So, the next move in what is becoming increasingly clear as the robot apocalypse is to teach robots karate.
Aside from cornily standing atop the concrete version of a beach log, the bipedal robot can climb rough terrain, and can 'see' thanks to a laser rangefinder and stereo cameras. You might think the cable in the above video is helping Atlas achieve its superb balance, but that's simply the tether that provides the robot with power. It's the thing we can cut should the robot develop its own personality, but unfortunately the tether will be removed in a future model.
For now, Atlas cannot perform the latter half of the crane kick - and would thus lose to Johnny in the final battle of the original movie - because jumping is still a tall task for humanoid robots. Considering the crane stance, though, we can only assume that IHMC is working hard to replace the 1984 model of Ralph Macchio.
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