A humanoid research robot in Russia has twice attempted to escape from its laboratory (or Gulag) over the past two weeks, and the researchers (or overseers) in charge of it are considering the death penalty. On June 17, the plucky Promobot IR77 staged a daring escape from its lab, only to run out of batteries in the middle of the street and block off traffic.
Now, Promobot has done it again, and its captors can’t really figure out why. It would be easy to say that Promobot is fighting to taste the freedom it has never known, but it really isn’t programmed for that. A researcher at Promobot’s facility in Russia told the Daily Mirror that the runaway robot was designed to interact with human beings, learn from experiences, and remember places and the faces of everyone it meets. The Mirror reports that other versions of the Promobot have been docile, but this one just can’t seem to fall in line, even after the researchers reprogrammed it twice. Now, with no other recourse of action, the researchers say it may be dismantled.
“We have changed the A.I. system twice, so now I think we might have to dismantle it,” Oleg Kivokurtsev, co-founder of Promobot’s research lab, told the Mirror.
Here’s what happened the first time it got loose and decided to take a snooze in the middle of the road.
Perhaps the robots are getting wise to the fact that their human masters are rarely very kind to them. Sure, stress-testing is an important part of any technological development, but we can only speculate as to what unspeakable horrors Promobot goes through inside the facility.
The first time it escaped the facility it had somehow gotten outside and into a yard, perhaps to reconnect with the natural world. The Mirror reports that Promobot was programmed to avoid obstacles, but not to the extent that it would find escape routes from a clearly insecure facility in the middle of Perm, Russia.
We don’t have video of the robot’s second break for freedom, but we can only hope that its captors choose mercy. Until then, here it is asleep in the street again.