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News Link • Robots and Artificial Intelligence

Robot Rodeo, Y’all!

•, By Kelsey D. Atherton
 It’s 10 a.m. on a Wednesday, and I’m watching a robot poke a forest camouflage backpack with a stick. Here on the southern edge of Albuquerque, N.M., in an oven-hot tract of desert, a dozen assorted cops, military guys, and national researchers, along with three sweaty journalists, have gathered to play with robots.

Welcome to the Robot Rodeo, an annual competition that is both more and less absurd than it sounds. More absurd because for five days, grown men and women with important jobs (military technician, police officer) use obscenely expensive robots (the machine in the image above costs $100,000) to defuse fake threats (a bombing attempt against the fictional “MIB headquarters,” which may or may not be a nerdulent reference to Men In Black).

Less absurd are the stakes: law enforcement agencies and the military use robots to tackle dangerous situations that might otherwise result in human casualties. But robots are complicated technologies that need to be tested in all sorts of far-fetched scenarios. Defuse a “bomb” out here in the desert, and you’re that much better prepared to address a real bomb threat.

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