Tuesday, August 2, 2016

18195--Do We Get Bonus Points for Engineering Our Doom with Style?

Leonardo DaVinci gets credit for starting things rolling, I suppose.  He might be impressed with the developments we've made in robotics since his own, but I can't help but think he'd be asking what's been taking so long in the same sentence.  Some animatronic show pieces are delightful to watch go through the motions of mimicry, but they're still far short of the levels of integrated, functional, practical technological tools we imagine when we conceive of ubiquitous cyborgs and robots.

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There are advances being made, to be sure, but the pace seems to be painfully slow.  Military thought drives a lot of development.  When those particular deep pockets are absent from involvement, though, we're left with whatever innovations can be wrought from curiosity, altruism, or commercial potential.

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Military development has been suspended on the supplemental pack robot "Big Dog" because it has been deemed too noisy for war.  Don't get me wrong, I understand the value of stealth, but it would seem that the level of noise produced by the robot would've been considered long before the many months of work and spending had gone so far in crafting an otherwise nifty support tool for the field.  Is it an awful waste, shelving the proto-terminators and their ilk rather than working out a way to suppress the operational noises?  Probably, but it wouldn't be the first time R&D outlays ended up populating a storage room.  Still, why should that happen here?

Even if the military doesn't want to explore the robo-mule further, there's no reason not to license it out to the private sector.  There are already amazing bird and insect robots that have been made.  If people would stop focusing on flying drones over their neighbors or trying to figure out hoverboarding for a few minutes, they'd probably realize that there are (I'm guessing) probably a lot of people who'd enjoy riding their own robot unicorn around.  Or maybe a robot dire wolf.  Either way, it'd have to be better than a Segway.  Without much alteration, "Big Dog" could carry a passenger or two on a mountain trail hike...seat warmer and Bluetooth speakers optional.  How many cupholders would you like?

Welcome to the 21st century.  The future is upon us.

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