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Chuck Hagel met a life-sized robot today. And no one seems that concerned.

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is briefed on the ATLAS ROBOT which is one of the most advanced humanoid robots ever built April 22, 2014, at the Pentagon by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency(DARPA) personnel demonstrating five technologies under development. PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spent Tuesday at the Pentagon, checking out the five new innovations from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Among the exhibits were the latest in prosthetic limb technology  -- demonstrated by a longtime friend of Hagel's who lost an arm in Vietnam -- and a hand-and-arm apparatus that responds to brain impulses.

Then there was the life-sized robot, developed as part of a challenge to DARPA to create a robot that could go into places too dangerous for humans. Here's how Stars and Stripes described the robot.

Virginia Tech’s entrant in the contest, the hulking 6-foot-2-inch Atlas robot developed by Boston Dynamics, loomed menacingly in the background as Hagel was shown a video of robots walking over uneven ground and carrying things. Except for LED lighting, however, the 330-pound humanoid appeared to be switched off.

Brad Tousley, head of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, explained to Hagel that Hollywood creates unrealistic expectations of robotic capability. In fact, building human-like robots capable of autonomously doing things like climbing ladders, opening doors and carrying things requires major feats of engineering and computer science.

That, of course, is what the robots want you to think.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.



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Chris Cillizza · April 22, 2014

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