I’ve written about robots powered by smartphones and the near-infinite knowledge available on the web, so you’d think that I’d be comfortable seeing a new robot video. I saw one today and I’m actually torn between amazement and fright. No, this robot has no intelligence or self-awareness, nor does it have an invisible interface such as Siri (s aapl), but it’s one of the most human contraptions I’ve seen yet.
I would have incorrectly guessed the name of this robot as an early Cyberdyne T-100 model from the Terminator films. Instead, it’s the PETMAN, created by Boston Dynamics for the U.S. Army. Don’t be scared though: We’re not sending the highly agile metal man into the battlefield, and it won’t likely rise up against the human race.
PETMAN’s sole purpose is to simulate a soldier to test chemical protection clothing. And by simulate, I don’t mean just walk, squat and do push-ups; although it can do those with amazing agility: Drop and give me 20, PETMAN.
The robot moves like a human solider, but also “simulates human physiology by controlling temperature, humidity and sweating inside the clothing to provide realistic test conditions.” So no need to worry about PETMAN for now, unless you have a fear of being sweat upon by a machine. Still, I wonder if there are any plans in the works to add sensors and connectivity to eventually add some basic intelligence and awareness. PETMAN could be an interesting remote spy, so long as he has an eternal supply of deodorant and a real head; that flashing red light atop his shoulders would be a dead giveaway.