The robot apocalypse is a ways off: Watch DARPA droids bite the dust in this video

If you love a bit of slapstick, you’re bound to get a laugh or two out of this compilation video showing robots at the weekend’s DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals tumbling about the place as they tackle the contest’s demanding tasks, among them walking over rubble, turning valves, and climbing stairs.

Lovingly compiled by the folks at IEEE, the amusing bloopers see the drunk-like droids keeling over before hitting the deck with varying degrees of force. While team members will likely have had their heads in their hands whenever their ‘bot bumbled, the rest of you may see the funny side as the droids lose their way in spectacular fashion. Either that or you’ll feel a little sorry for them as they clatter to the ground. Event organizer Gill Pratt said as much, commenting that crowds attending the event emitted “groans of sympathy” whenever one of the robots flopped.

In earlier rounds of the contest held over the last two years, the bots were tethered to prevent them going down. This weekend’s final, however, pushed the teams and their robots to the limit, with all tethering banned.

Crashing to the ground during one of the eight tasks didn’t necessarily mean “game over” for the bot – if it could get itself back up, it was allowed to continue with the task. However, if it needed its team’s assistance to return to an upright position, it’d be hit with a 10-minute penalty. The final, which involved 23 competitors from around the world, was won by a South Korean team with its DRC-Hubo robot.

DARPA ran the contest to advance research and development of robotic technology for disaster zones. While major progress has certainly been made in recent years, this bloopers video alone demonstrates the huge challenges faced by engineers in developing robots that can stay functioning at all times and don’t suddenly look like they’ve been on the sauce all day.


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