There’s hardly any theme more played out than the Skynet scenario when it comes to robotics. While military robots (and the AI required to provide them with the kind of autonomy) is likely an impossibility at least in the next decade, the last decade of  AI and robotics are impressive, and worth checking out.

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After getting sucked into YouTube while doing “killer robot” research for another article, I decided to share some of my own favorite short videos below – a few of which I didn’t know existed until this week.

Through our last series of artificial intelligence interviews (with PhDs and researchers from Oxford, Stanford, and beyond), it’s clear that as far as near-term technology risks go, there’s a lot of concerns about a “killer robots arms race” among those on the AI cutting edge, spawning an Autonomous Weapons Open Letter from the Future of Life Institute, and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots (backed by over 50 NGOs).

Regardless of what side of the fence you sit on with respect to to killer robots, actually seeing the technology in action makes for a more informed debate.

Russian Bipedal Robot Drives an RV

RT doesn’t give us much detail here, as I imagine any Russian bipedal military robot project isn’t intended to get much attention in the first place – but it seems like an interesting analogy to the some of the bipedal robotics projects done in the USA. It seems reasonable to speculate (based on the limited footage available) that this robot may in fact be a dummy, and the RV may in fact be remote controlled. Across the board, Russia isn’t as far along in advanced robotics technology as the USA or Japan(military or otherwise), and it’s possible that this is part of an effort to “keep up with the Joneses.” I suppose time may tell.

MARS Mini-Tank Armed Robot

With the capacity to carry varied weapons and sensors depending on the mission, the MARS robot hopes to achieve great maneuverability and adaptability. Controllable from kilometers away, the newer models are just three feet long by two feet wide.

ATLAS Bipedal Robot Walking and Running in the Woods

I knew that they could stand up on a treadmill, but I wouldn’t assume that these robots would be capable of climbing up and down hills in the brush, or running over shrubs on uneven terrain. Apparently they can. In terms of balance and coordination, this is a rather impressive feat, and one can only imagine the dexterity of these bots in the coming decade.

DARPA Per-Proto Robot Climbs and Jumps on Two Legs

This is impressive, and frightening. The DARPA Challenge robotics competitions are essentially showcases of robots designed for rescue scenarios. You know, opening (or breaking through) doors and saving people from burning buildings, etc…

It takes no massive stretch of the imagination to understand that these same exact capabilities (climbing stairs, opening doors, running, holding and using tools) are the ones that the military would need to create robots uniquely equipped for battle. Such is the double-edged sword of technology. Within ten or twenty years it seems reasonable that DARPA might get there.

aEgis II Robot can Destroy Targets From 3 Kilometers Away

Sentry guns (stationary weapons that detect and fire at moving targets) aren’t new, but as far as they go, the aEgis II is a pretty hardcore modern permutation. From the homework I’ve done, there isn’t any conclusive proof that these guns are in use today on the South or North Korean borders, but it seems plausible that they are. With 2-3 kilometers of range for detection and shooting, and the ability to automatically pour out 12.5mm and 40mm rounds, this has rightly been called “the opposite of a friendly robot.”