Human Gets Top of Head Cut Off by Robot, Survives

Kids, even if you do somehow have a three-armed military robot lying around, you still won't want to try this at home

1 min read
Human Gets Top of Head Cut Off by Robot, Survives

Meet Tim. Tim is about to get his head shaved by a robot.

This is, for the record, perhaps not the most vicious robotic barber that we've ever seen, and Tim should be very glad that he isn't a sheep. And though he volunteered for this, he looks a bit terrified about what's going to happen to his head, and once you see the result, you won't blame him:

Tim old buddy, mad props for taking one for the team. Go buy yourself a nice big hat, you've earned it.  

Performing this procedure is a "Multi-Arm Unmanned Ground Vehicle" from Intelligent Automation Inc. (IAI), a Rockville, Md.-based R&D firm focused on AI applications. Its three arms provide more degrees of freedom than can be safely used by a human remote operating hair-butchering implements, but they're probably great for the tasks that the robot was actually designed for, which include backpack inspection, tool handling, shovel manipulation, door breaching, knot tying, and tackling IEDs.

The death-defying stunt in the video (Tim clearly has nerves of steel and a skull comprised of a material somewhat harder than steel) was to raise money for St. Baldrick's Foundation, to help fund the search for cures for childhood cancers. Apparently, you can donate to them without having a robot attack you with clippers, and you can learn more (about both the robot and the charity) at the links below.

[ IAI ]

[ St. Baldrick's Foundation ]

Thanks Jonathan!

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How the U.S. Army Is Turning Robots Into Team Players

Engineers battle the limits of deep learning for battlefield bots

11 min read
Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman

“I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.”

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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