New Iran threat: Slow-moving humanoid robots

Are Iran's Asimo-like humanoid robots more dangerous than Asimo himself? Only if they can climb stairs without falling over and crashing.

Iranian humanoid robot Surena II is seen in Tehran at a ceremony marking the national day of industry.
Iranian humanoid robot Surena II is seen in Tehran at a ceremony marking the national day of industry. AY-Collection/SIPA

How many nuclear centrifuges does Iran have? That's academic. Always showing off its tech might, the Islamic republic now has a bipedal robot that can walk around like a person, albeit at sub-human speeds. It's the latest volley in the humanoid arms race pushing us all toward the Singularity.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad showed off the terrifying humanoid at an event over the weekend marking Iranian industrial prowess. A state-run newspaper report said the automaton is designed for work in "sensitive jobs" but did not elaborate.

Dubbed Surena II after an ancient Persian warrior, the bot could be Asimo's Iranian cousin. It's about 4.7 feet tall and weighs about 99 pounds. It apparently lacks vision and sound capabilities. So what can it do?

"Walking slowly like human beings with regular arm and leg movements are among its characteristics," AFP quoted the report in Iran newspaper as saying. "Such robots are designed and developed to be used in sensitive and difficult jobs on behalf of a person or as help."

Surena II was created by more than 20 engineers at the University of Tehran following the wheeled, first-generation Sorena developed two years ago (see video below). Why they changed the spelling of the name is another mystery surrounding the bot.

This is clearly a game of robot one-upmanship. How should America respond?


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