If we’ve learned anything from science fiction, it’s that putting too much faith into robots will only bring about the end of humanity. Our meaty bodies stand no match against the all-powerful, artificially intelligent machinations of the world’s smartest engineers.
But fiction hasn’t stopped the best and brightest from building bots that will someday change how we interact with the world. If these innovative robots are our future overlords, then the not-so-distant future might not be so bleak: these machines are gearing up to make a huge difference…
1. Sophia: Dubbed an Innovation Champion by the United Nations, the social AI that can process speech and have a conversation was given citizenship in Saudi Arabi. This led fellow human citizens to wonder if that meant shutting her down was murder.
2. Method-2: Enter the heart of this $100 million beast and you’ll be able to control a mech suit that can navigate any terrain, wave its arms like a puppet on a string, and, potentially, maybe, exterminate the human race. It currently lives in a South Korea test facility.
3. BionicAnts: These bots don’t require remote controls. They respond to stimuli and wordlessly communicate with other BionicAnts nearby to complete complex tasks. Now that’s an infestation we can get behind!
4. BigDog: The size of a mule, this military bot built by Boston Dynamics — a Google company — can carry about 100 pounds on its back and cross terrains its wheeled companions couldn’t.
5. CB2: Hoping to understand the potential of artificial intelligence, scientists built this child-like android so that they could teach it language. CB2 understands the contextual meanings behind facial expressions and gestures.
6. BionicFlyingFox: While this robot with an identity crisis (fox? really?) needs help getting off the ground, once it’s in the air, the flyer with a 7-foot wingspan operates autonomously. By recording flight data, it can improve its flight behaviors.
7. Cheetah 3: Even without environmental sensors or cameras, this feline-bot can leap nearly 3 feet into the air, climb stairs, and gallop over rough terrain. Cheetah-print accessories make it one of the more fashionable robots.
8. Actroid-F: Hiroshi Ishiguro of Japan’s Osaka University wanted to create a lifelike android, so he whipped up this blinking, speaking, face-recognizing bot. She can fend off pokes or slaps, meaning she’s about five years out from putting people in headlocks.
9. Spot: The little brother of the BigDog, this bot earned a reputation after video surfaced of engineers kicking it to the ground over and over. Each time, the dog-like bot maneuvered to its feet all by itself!
10. REEM: PAL-robotics created this capable receptionist and tour guide to help guests at malls, airports, or other traffic hubs. Designers probably should’ve given it a mouth if they wanted to make it more approachable.
11. GhostSwimmer: Designed to look like a shark, this robot lets the U.S. Navy scout 300 feet below the water without stuffing soldiers into submarines or putting them in enemy crosshairs.
12. Atlas: Can you do a backflip? Atlas can. The bot can run, too, making it one of the more likely candidates to rise up and takeover. Boston Dynamics engineers take pride in its ability to balance and navigate any terrain. Possibilities are endless.
13. Robugtix T8X: Programmed to mimic a spider, this robo-arachnid crawls around on 8 legs and requires a remote control to operate. Unfortunately, it can’t sling web or sense incoming dangers. Maybe in 2030?
14. PETMAN: We’ll ignore his less-than-perfect squat technique and celebrate this bot’s capabilities. Able to walk, run, crawl, and sweat, the android soldier can test dangerous equipment and carry out rescue missions in war zones.
15. Spot-Mini: Quieter and smaller than its big brother Spot, this dog can replace your flesh-and-blood pup in the event you for some reason want to cuddle with a mechdog that doesn’t pee on the carpet or need any affection.
16. The Talon: When bullets are flying and bombs are bursting, rescuing wounded soldiers can be a tough task… for humans! This lightweight bot with an arm can drag 700 pounds of dead weight, identify IEDs, and even get involved in combat.
17. Kuratas: Inspired by anime, engineer Kogoro Kurata built this design — a user-operated mech-suit — in 2012. Equipped with multiple weapons, this machine’s good for more than just photo ops.
18. RHex: Mud, rocks, and dense vegetation stand no chance at stopping this all-terrain machine built by Boston Dynamics. Thanks to a waterproof body, this guy can go pretty much anywhere, making it a bona fide military scout.
19. Asimo: Honda’s humanoid has wowed people since 2000 with an iconic voice and uncanny hand gestures. Quite the brainiac, too, Asimo won an episode of the British quiz show QI back in 2011.
20. LS3: Because it could carry 400 pounds Marines put this autonomous bot capable of understanding voice commands to good use. Sadly it was so loud and super heavy — not exactly ideal qualities on a battlefield — so the LS3 was retired.
21. BionicWheelBot: Festo engineers were enamored with a spider in Morocco that could roll itself into a ball, so they created this bot, which can tuck-and-roll for speed or crawl to navigate tough terrain.
22. WildCat: While it lacks the fashion flair of the Cheetah-3, this feline-bot can get up and go. It set the record for the fastest free running quadrupedal robot at 19.8 mph.
23. Eelume: Deep sea cables can’t repair themselves, so Norwegian engineers cooked up this snakelike robot. Because of its small width, the bot can navigate narrow irrigation tubes humans can’t.
24. Handle: What makes this Boston Dynamics bot stand out is its feet, or rather, its wheels. On top of reaching speeds of 9 MPH, the bot can carry up to 45 pounds and navigate tight spaces.