“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.

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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.

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