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Even When You Put Them In Sweaters, Robots Are Terrible Skiers

It’s nice to know that when the robots turn on us, we can seek refuge and safety on ski slopes.

While actual humans may be using the Olympic games at Pyeongchang to demonstrate how well they can ski, a group of scientists and students about 60 miles away used the snowy conditions to show how well their robot creations can tackle the slopes.

Unfortunately for the great minds behind the robots, it seems that humans are still miles ahead of the robots in this arena. Eight robots competed in a downhill course, and while only one would win the title of “Best Skiing Robot,” the honor was more accurately tantamount to “Least-Awful Skiing Robot.” The modest exercise took the mechanical creations down an 80-meter course complete with ski gates that appeared to exist more as suggestions than actual prerequisites.

In order to gain entry, engineers had to submit “humanoid” robots — ones that resemble a person by having two legs and joints approximating knees and elbows — that must stand at least 50 centimeters (19.7 inches) tall. Sure, that’s far shorter than the average person, but it’s a fair enough stipulation this early on in the “let’s make robots ski” effort.

On the bright side, the robot competitors were wearing some adorable sweaters during the exhibition.

On a slightly darker note, though, the robots lacked heads, which made for a sort of uncanny-valley visual that may be hard for some to forget anytime soon.

While this may be a comical early effort at skiing, it’s clear from the recent work of Boston Dynamics that it’s only a matter of time and funding before these engineers create a mechanical object that puts the likes of Lindsey Vonn or Shaun White to shame.

But in the meantime, let’s delight in the robots’ folly and celebrate our indefinite dominance on the slopes.

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