I love to write sci-fi stories about humanoid robots. My first humanoid robot story will be published later this fall. But I have many more that I hope to publish. I love to contemplate how humanoid robots will impact ordinary people’s lives in positive and not-so-positive ways, and even some downright scary ways (think Terminator). The film and TV series which have most influenced my fiction about robots are: Spielberg’s 2001 film AI: Artificial Intelligence and the HBO television series Westworld, based on the 1973 film by the same name which was written and directed by one of my all-time favorite sci-fi authors, Michael Crichton.
Recently, the phrases humanoid robot and sentient robots have been in the news.
Sentient robots are apparently coming soon to a Disney Park near you.
And, Elon Musk, in an audacious publicity stunt, recently told the world he planned to introduce the world to a Tesla humanoid robot “sometime next year.” But the robot on stage was an actor dressed like and imitating a robot. He said the “Tesla Bot will be real.”
Musk says: “It’s intended to be friendly and navigate through a world of humans, and eliminate dangerous, repetitive and boring.” But he also warned “it probably won’t work” at first.
A lot of analysts and tech journalists are skeptical about whether Musk is going to seriously pursue the robotics business and, if so, whether he can effectively compete. He does already have plenty of competition. Big public companies. Small private ones. All over the world. Here’s a link listing the top ones. Then again, I never underestimate Mr. Musk’s wizardry. Giant robots help make Tesla Model 3’s in 3 days.
One of the more advanced humanoid robots is Atlas, which is under development by Boston Dynamics of Waltham, MA. The South Korean auto giant, Hyundai, took an 80% stake in the company in June of 2021. Softbank, the Japanese investment company owns the remaining 20%. Google owned Boston Dynamics for 3 years before transitioning it to Softbank in 2017.
Boston Dynamics makes industrial robots, like quadrupedal Spot, and others named Stretch and Pick. But bipedal Atlas is their humanoid research robot. Their website proclaims “Atlas is a research platform designed to push the limits of whole-body mobility.” Atlas looks like a Star Wars storm trooper to me, and, yes, it’s was primarily developed with funding and oversight from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. Atlas was initially designed for a variety of search and rescue tasks and was publicly unveiled in July 2013.
Here’s Atlas in action:
Here’s info on the DARPA relationship and links to more videos:
Makes a sci-fi writer’s imagination run wild.
That’s why I think we all need to strap on our seat belts in preparation for the rest of this century. The robots (and lots of other crazy shit) are coming! Here’s yet another, more comprehensive video that will both tickle your imagination and send shivers up your spine.