“Parkour Robot” Jumps Around, Other Robots Roll Eyes

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

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
  Life
Gaming
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 11:51 PM Should You Freeze Your Eggs? An egg freezing party is not a great place to find answers to this or other questions.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.