Military Robots Dance Gangam Style
October 23, 2012

CHARLI Military Robot Busts A Move, Gangnam Style

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Oh how we´ve“¦progressed?

For decades, humans have been trying to imitate robots in the way we dance. The entire notion seems a little silly, of course, as it´s not entirely likely that robots WOULD dance, but if they did, many expect their motions to be rigid yet fluid; jerky yet smooth; and most of all, capable of defying some laws of physics.

Yet, for all the progress we´ve made in learning how to dance like robots, it´s likely very few ever assumed these robots were doing the same and learning to dance like us.

Enter CHARLI, the United States´ first full-size, autonomous humanoid robot. An alternate version of CHARLI, CHARLI-2, will be used by the U.S. Navy to fight fires and protect humans from other dangers. This 5-foot robot is also able to keep itself upright and even pick itself up again when it falls over.

CHARLI-2 also has a penchant for Internet memes and busting a move to songs with curious lyrics.

So, as you might expect, just before CHARLI-2 heads off to meet his new human shipmates in Virginia, CHARLI-2 has decided to bust one quick little move to the musical stylings of Korea´s newest superstar, Psy.

That´s right, a robot is dancing like a human who is dancing like a horse, I guess?

The originally video for Gangnam Style features some very colorful and lively dancing, including a bouncy, horse-jockey sort of motion, a wild and hyperactive version of what some have referred to as the “Stanky leg,” and, of course, plenty of pelvic thrusts.

While CHARLI-2 isn´t so free with his body as Psy´s backup dancers, credit is given where credit is due: The robot is at least able to keep time, and instead of bouncing around, it simply keeps the appropriate time with some subdued foot taps. All in all, a very impressive performance by this young robot who´s ancestors have also been known to play a bit of soccer.

Now, CHARLI´s creator, Dennis Hong of Virginia Tech has been given a $3.5 million grant to create a follow-up act for the Navy. The Autonomous Shipboard Humanoid, or ASH, will work like CHARLI in that it will be able to be autonomous as well as interact with humans. The Navy has already been working on another robotic project meant to fight fires, just like CHARLI. Named Octavia, this robot uses wheels and, therefore, is not able to dance the Gangnam Style dance. Perhaps the Moonwalk would be more its style?

Hong spoke with Wired´s Danger Room to explain his motivations for not only designing a robot like CHARLI, but for demonstrating its“¦ prowess in this way.

“If a robot can do all the tasks that come with fighting a fire, it can do all these other things on ships, like mopping the deck,” said Hong.

“It´s like the Swiss Army knife of robotics.”

While it´s yet to be seen if other robots will be taking on CHARLI in any alleyway dance-offs, one thing´s for certain, said Hong:

“CHARLI-2 can at least beat Navy sailors in a dance-off doing ℠The Robot.´”