The humanoid Running Man robot can zip around buildings, climb stairways and even open doors by itself.
But after this weekend, you can count celebrating Mardi Gras as one more of its many accomplishments.
Pensacola’s Mardi Gras Parade Grand Marshal this year is the Pensacola-based Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition’s “Running Man” robot, who will kick the 2016 Grand Mardi Gras Parade off waving to the tens of thousands of spectators in attendance.
In June 2015, IHMC entered Running Man in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals and came away with winnings of $1 million, outperforming 21 teams from around the world.
Dr. Peter Neuhaus, senior Research Scientist with IHMC, says the idea to bring Running Man into the parade as the Grand Marshal was born out of a conversation he had with Mayor Ashton Hayward after the elite team of scientists took away second place in the DARPA’s competition last year.
“The mayor called me up after after the finals and he said we should have Running Man in the parade,” said Neuhaus.
Neuhaus says that while Running Man won’t be able to stroll down the street with the rest of the parade participants due to liability reasons, the humanoid robot will still be a main focus in the parade.
“While Running Man will not be operational, it will be a main attraction during the event,” said Neuhaus. “It’s going to be sitting in the passenger seat of our test vehicle during the parade.”
Neuhaus says community outreach and educating students about what they do to further the advancement of humanoid technology is vital to their work. “We do a lot of student outreach with local schools and career days,” Neuhaus said.
As if the IHMC hasn’t had a big enough year in 2015, the research institute is just months away from opening its $8 million research lab expansion in the heart of downtown Pensacola. The new facility will allow more room for research labs, public viewing areas and offices.
“In the spring we’ll be opening our new building and there will be a robot operating area with a second floor viewing area for visitors to observe demonstrations of our work and research,” Neuhaus added.
But don’t expect an army of debaucherous Running Man robots to be taking over Mardi Gras anytime in the near future. IHMC scientists say humans are doing just fine a job at that.