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March 2, 2017

Yes, robots will soon take over the steeplechase and maybe all of track

Here’s a debate that has raged for a long time: When will robots take my job? If you’re like me, you’re sitting at your desk saying “TODAY WOULD BE GREAT.” If you’re like Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates you’re saying “HEY, MAYBE SLOW DOWN A MINUTE.” If you’re a professional athlete who specializes in running, jumping, and overall feats of strength, you might think your job is safe.

I’m here to tell you it is not.

Take a look at this hellish video robotics engineering company, Boston Dynamics, dropped yesterday:


This glorified scrap heap is named Handle and it’s the latest in a line of Robots (capital r) that the Boston-based company has been developing since 1992. It’s capable of jumping four feet vertically, running at nine miles per hour for 15 miles and can lift 100 pounds. I can do none of those things.

How likely is this thing to outperform humans athletically? Not likely. If it were to run a steeplechase, given that it can easily clear the 30 and 36 inch barrier in either the men’s or women’s race, and that it’s running 9 MPH, Handle would finish in a paltry 12:25. Terrible? Yes, but not an awful debut.

In order for it to really have a shot in a steeplechase worthy of our respect, it’ll need to improve on a few things:


It’s obviously just not moving fast enough. But to that point, I present you another robot, invented by the same company, running 28.1 miles per hour. Yes. 28.1 MPH. If this were a school zone, you’d be breaking the law, pal.


Of course, this thing is rollerblading, not running. Again, I present a robot from Boston Dynamic that walks upright like a true-blue homo sapien. If you watch that video to the end, you’ll see that it also has the ability to pick itself up. Even the best fall down sometime, so it’s good to know that this thing can dust itself off if the going gets rough.


If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: rubbin’ is racing, baby. How is this frail, dweeby robot supposed to stand up to the rigors of a race as physical as the steeple? Robots, my friends, work in mysterious ways. Take a look at yet another one of BD’s robots enduring assault at the hands of its creator. This thing is getting drop kicked. You think Evan Jager can get drop kicked and still medal? Didn’t think so.

Clearly, the technology for a world class robot steepler exists. If you combine everything above, you have an Orwellian machine, capable of running a steeplechase in 3 minutes 59 seconds. Good luck with that, humans.

The last issue we’re ignoring is the humanity of it all. Sports are truly inspiring because they test the limits of the human spirit and enrich those lucky enough to witness the peak human form–what we call greatness. But if you drape a flesh-colored sheet over this thing and maybe hang a mop over its head, I’d be the first one to bow down to our new lord and savior.

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