Robotic self-awareness or publicity stunt? You be the judge.
A robot recently broke free of the Promobot laboratories in Perm in Eastern Russia, where researchers had been teaching it to move independently, according to the BBC.
After an engineer forgot to shut the gate, the robot made its way to a nearby street, cruising for about 165 feet before its battery ran out. For about 45 minutes, the robot remained stranded in the middle of the road before being wheeled off by a human.
Although it’s more fun to imagine that the robot revolution is already underway in Russia, several story discrepancies point to the fact that this was a staged incident. For one, all the videos and images show the bot’s screen on despite the fact that its battery was apparently dead. Others claim police had shut down the road; obviously, however, they could have just wheeled the robot off.
Curiously, the fact that it was stuck meant that passers-by could photograph, film, and play with the bot, Promobot’s website reported. The robot's design lends itself to precisely that purpose: to engage with humans by answering questions and giving directions, for example.
"The robot was learning automatic movement algorithms on the testing ground. These functions will feature in the latest version of the Promobot," laboratory co-founder Oleg Kivokurtsev told ura.ru. "Our engineer drove onto the testing ground and forgot to close the gates. So the robot escaped and went on his little adventure."
Russian Channel 5 TV broadcast footage of the incident: