If robots were going to kill us, they could probably come up with more ways than one to do so. Those equipped with weapons can just outright shoot us, while others can be more subtle. Many would probably take over our jobs first, leaving us to starve to our deaths. Or they could slam a door at us, like Boston Dynamic’s SpotMini.
There are lots of things that robots can do now, but slalom skiing is definitely not one of them. If you wanted a chance to get back at robots for the supposed techno-doomsday they may bring, watching them ski would be a great opportunity.
Side by side this year’s Winter Olympics at Pyeonchang, South Korea, robots demonstrated just how well they could manage a snowy slope. Not very well, judging by how things went. At the first-ever robot ski tournament, eight robotics teams competed for a shot at a $10,000 prize.
Dubbed as the “Edge of Robot: Ski Robot Challenge,” the tournament was quite a spectacle. It was a demonstration of how far robotics has gone and how far robots could go down the 80-meter alpine skiing course at Welli Hilli Ski Resort.
It turns out, the automated metallic skiers were far from the champions their makers wanted them to be. Dressed in children’s winter clothes, these automated robots were designed to navigate a simple enough course. Unfortunately, none of them quite nailed it this time.
Like stiff elves on a cold winter’s day, most of the robots — which had to be at least 50 cm tall — figured that the best way to ski down the course was to tumble and take a few flag poles with them. In their defense, it was rather cold, so the extremely low temperatures may have affected the bots’ functionality. Sure, some managed finish, although they had issues with how to stop from sliding down on their cute, little skis. So, most went home with the proverbial “A for effort” for their wonderful display of skiing prowess.
Of course, a winner had to be declared, so this year’s champion was a little robot called Taekwon V, named after a Korean Gundam-like kiddie show. The world’s first-ever robot skiing champ was developed by South Korean robotics firm MiniRobot Corp.
But hey, at least there’s one more thing we’ve learned that humans can’t do but robots can: survive through a rough tumble down a skiing course virtually unscathed. Hopefully, these robots also learn to stand up after every fall. Or winter.
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