Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Today in disappointing robots...

Look, I don't want to pick on the hip, young roboticists of China's National Defense University, but they're not so great at inventing robots. I mean, neither is the rest of the planet, but seriously check this out:
Ta-da...wait, what is that, an ATM?
So like, reboot Robocop.
It's called AnBot and it was unveiled at the Chonqing Hi-Tech Fair last week. Can you guess what it's for? If you said police patrols and urban pacification you'd be correct. You'd also have probably read ahead because there is nothing about this gleaming white plastic egg on wheels that says 'freeze creep, dead or alive you're coming with me.' Yet that's what AnBot is according to China's People's Daily Online, it's a goddamn real-life Robocop. Well, Robocop if he was awkward, ineffective and kind of lame.

I sincerely hope that the taser is activated
by rapidly tapping the punch button.
AnBot is 1.49 meters in height (so like an un-intimidating 4'8'), weighs 78 kilograms (a buck seventy) and can go up to 18 kph which-holy shit, I was about to make fun of that, but that's eleven miles per hour which actually seems pretty fast for Segway with a taser, so I'll give it that. Oh, didn't I mention? This thing has a taser. AnBot is usually autonomous, but it takes a human remote operator to activate the robot's riot-stoping electro shock super-move. I guess because nobody wants the decision to tase a crowd left up to a glorified Roomba running Windows XP.

AnBot is also equipped with a robotic arm that can grasp a suspect's leg and hold them until they can be apprehended which I'm going to have to call bullshit on. Robots are just not good at grabbing things, it's a stereotype I know, but stereotypes often have a basis in fact. If you've ever played the grabber machine at an arcade, you know what I mean.
Above: AnBot demonstrating its ability to apprehend suspects who are
patiently waiting for AnBot's operator to properly line up the grabber arm.
To be clear, AmBot's most useful
feature is its ability to call the real cops.
Probably less prone to failure is AnBot's built-in call button that will automatically call the Chinese equivalent of 911 which I suppose could come in handy. Say you're the victim of a crime and don't have a cell on you-huh? I don't know, you got mugged? Let's also assume the the streets of Shanghai are completely empty and there's no one around to help. So you're the phone-less victim of a crime at 4 a.m. but don't worry, you've spotted an AnBot. Under those narrow circumstances, you'd totally be glad that AnBot was around.

"C'mon everyone, let's crap all over it!"
-The Internet
Critics, and by critics I mean everyone in the world with a Twitter account, were quick to point out that AnBot is objectively ridiculous. They compared it to a Dalek, a trashcan on wheels and one jerk even referred to it as Voltron's suppository. Full disclosure: that last one was me, but I'm not sure that we're being entirely fair. A least they're trying something new. Clumsy-looking and entirely impractical as a law enforcement tool, yes, but new. And how many robots have you built, hmm?

Thought so. Sure, AnBot would be completely useless should a suspect flee up a flight of stairs or over uneven terrain and yeah, a couple of drunk college kids could easily shove it over rendering it immobile but...sorry, forgot where I was going.
Researchers in Japan meanwhile are lightyears ahead of AnBot with RoBear,
an eldercare robot that uses an innovative cuddly design to mitigate the crushing
guilt you should feel for pawning off your elderly relatives onto a robot bear. 

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