“Parkour Robot” Jumps Around, Other Robots Roll Eyes

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
July 25 2013 12:41 PM

“Parkour Robot” Jumps Around, Other Robots Roll Eyes

Fred Rogers once said, “You make each day special just by your being you.” At least, that’s what RHex’s creators at the University of Pennsylvania whisper to it each morning before the “parkour robot” leaves for school. They know the other robots will make fun of it for jumping over lunch tables and clinging to walls like a Jackie Chan wannabe, but the researchers are hoping it’s just a phase. One day, they tell themselves, RHex will get a good job performing rescue missions or maybe environmental monitoring. You’ll see.

Sadly, no one wants to be friends with the parkour bot. It’s possible, though, that the other robots are just a little jealous of RHex and his six springy sickles. After all, it does seem rather capable of crawling over debris in a way wheels and complex quadrupeds are not. Remember when Atlas and the other popular robots invited RHex to that party in the woods and then left it there? The resourceful RHex found its way home by following a rock-filled creek. Even they had to admit that was pretty impressive.

Advertisement

Alas, parkour hasn’t done RHex’s love life any favors, either. Who can compete with the showboats on the robot hockey team or that dreamy band of quadrotors, even if they do just keep playing the James Bond theme song?

But it’s not completely hopeless. What about that fiery little robot that’s been hanging out in the parking lot lately? Word is that bot can bounce. The word “parkour” doesn’t even do it justice. And just imagine the kind of athletes their baby bots would be.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Jason Bittel serves up science for picky eaters on his website, BittelMeThis.com. He lives in Pittsburgh. Follow him on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The End of Pregnancy

And the inevitable rise of the artificial womb.

Doctor Tests Positive for Ebola in New York City

How a Company You’ve Never Heard of Took Control of the Entire Porn Industry

The Hot New Strategy for Desperate Democrats

Blame China for everything.

The Questions That Michael Brown’s Autopsies Can’t Answer

Foreigners

Kiev Used to Be an Easygoing Place

Now it’s descending into madness.

Technology

Don’t Just Sit There

How to be more productive during your commute.

There Has Never Been a Comic Book Character Like John Constantine

Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?

  News & Politics
The Slate Quiz
Oct. 24 2014 12:10 AM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 23 2014 5:53 PM Amazon Investors Suddenly Bearish on Losing Money
  Life
Outward
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM Why Is an Obscure 1968 Documentary in the Opening Credits of Transparent?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 24 2014 8:19 AM Online Misogyny Levels Up as Gamergate Targets Gawker
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 6:55 PM A Goodfellas Actor Sued The Simpsons for Stealing His Likeness. Does He Have a Case?
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:47 PM Don’t Just Sit There How to be more productive during your commute.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 24 2014 7:00 AM Gallery: The Partial Solar Eclipse of October 2014
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.