In our upcoming Sunday magazine, I profile Dennis Hong, director of the Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory at Virginia Tech and a leader in the movement to perfect the humanoid robot, says Daniel de Vise, columnist for the Washington Post. In the movies, robots are everywhere, boxing and shooting and running and flying and generally outdoing humans at every turn. In reality, the humanoid robot has a long way to go. Simply powering an autonomous robot is a nightmare; current battery technology allows a robot maybe 20 minutes of life, and (as one of Hong’s students told me) if you poke the power cell with a pencil, it will explode. Visual sensors are costly and erratic. The simple human act of walking has eluded the world’s best robot scientists, although thanks to Hong and others, that barrier is finally coming down…

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