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Robots are getting more like us and famous scientists are concerned

toshiba robot
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
This is a robot.
  • Mike Murphy
By Mike Murphy

Technology editor

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

If 1984’s cautionary tale, The Terminator, is anything to go by, humanity should be wary of any more advances in robotics or artificial intelligence. Elon Musk recently pledged $10 million to keep artificial intelligence from running amok, and physicist Stephen Hawking told the BBC in December: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

Musk and Hawking are backed by other scientists, professors, and security analysts who are worried about the rise of artificial intelligence that doesn’t do what humans ask. Even so, scientists continue to research more human-like robots, with more human-like intelligence and thought processes.

Here are a few examples from just this month:

Free-roaming robots

Google-owned Boston Dynamics showed off a new version of its ATLAS robot that it’s building with DARPA. The main update: this robot has an onboard power pack and can walk around on its own. Even worse, if things do go south and it becomes self-aware, you won’t even be able to hide—ATLAS can now open doors.

Dancing robots

Tokyo University showed off something far more adorable—an army of 100 synchronized dancing robots. While these robots aren’t quite as imposing as DARPA’s 350-pound behemoth—they’re called Robi and you can buy one for about $1,500—the prospect of hundreds of robots wirelessly performing tasks in unison is somewhat unnerving. Like a version of the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disney done awry.

Secretary robots

While human-looking robots seem to be stuck firmly in the uncanny valley, that hasn’t stopped companies from building them. Toshiba had a humanoid robot manning its booth at CES. The robot is called Aiko Chihara, which according to Toshiba, means “wants world peace.”

Learning robots

Scientists at the University of Tübingen in Germany have taught Super Mario how to act for himself. They’ve taught him to explore his world, to search for coins on his own, and figure his way through levels without directions. They even told him that if he steps on a Goomba it will die, and he remembers this information.

Presumably if the scientists behind all these projects were to meet up, it wouldn’t be long before a humanoid robot army that can learn our weaknesses would rise up. Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking might be on to something.

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