It seems like almost everyday now we hear some strange story about a robot, from the Microsoft Twitterbot going full Nazi in 24 hours to Google’s AI digesting romance novels and regurgitating them as postmodern poetry. We are witnessing the overlapping pubescent evolutions of both algorithmic artificial intelligence and social media — and the result is a daily dose of discomfiting news.
It’s not limited to just algorithms, either. Actual robots have increasingly been in the news. Whether it’s a robot horse trekking across remote terrain, DARPA’s drone children being prepared for war, or a worker bot being abused in a factory, the age of automated minions is upon us.
For all of the stories, however, it’s somewhat rare that we hear about one of these robots escaping. But that’s exactly what happened in Perm, a city near the Urals in Russia, where an early self-learning version of the Promobot escaped its testing area and tied up nearby traffic.
According to its co-founder, Oleg Kivokurtsev, “The robot was learning automatic movement algorithms on the testing ground, [and] these functions will feature in the latest version of the Promobot.”
While some have questioned whether the “escape” was actually a PR stunt, the Promobot — which is, quite literally, a promotional robot that hosts and provides information — was missing for 45 minutes before its battery died.
“Our engineer drove onto the testing ground and forgot to close the gates. So the robot escaped and went on his little adventure,” Kivokurtsev added.
So there you go — your strange robot story for the day. At least I didn’t use the word Skynet.