US Defense Secretary Meets Rescue Robot Atlas

June 18, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. tread /trɛd/ (v.) – to walk or step over something
Example: He avoids treading on the grass.

2. innovation /ˌɪnəˈveɪʃən/ (n.) – a new or unique invention
Example: The company is proud to have created an innovation – a robot that can save lives.

3. virtual /ˈvɜrʃuəl/ (adj.) – referring to something that is created or produced using a computer program
Example: The team first created a virtual robot before it began building the actual one.

4. search and rescue /sɜrtʃ ænd ˈrɛs (n.) – the act of recovering and giving aid to people in disastrous situations
Example: The team risked their lives in the search and rescue operation.

5. prostheses /prɒsˈθi siz(n.) – artificial human body parts that serve as replacements for missing or damaged body parts
Example: Scientists today use robotics in creating prosthetics.


Read the text below.
Last April, United States Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had a special preview of Atlas, Pentagon’s most advanced robotic invention.

This invention is a six-foot humanlike robot that can tread on rough terrains and can balance on one foot. It is among the latest innovations included in a contest that aims to create lifesaving machines. The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which specializes in groundbreaking technological projects, headed this competition.

The competition is part of DARPA’s efforts to develop the most capable rescue robot—an ambitious but admirable aim that was prompted by the tragedies of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. It consists of three challenges in which nearly 120 robots are competing. The first two—a virtual challenge and hardware trial challenge—took place last year.

The last segment of the competition requires the remaining contenders to handle eight search and rescue tasks. These tasks will test the robots’ capabilities in overcoming physical obstacles that are common in man-made calamities. Atlas is one of the eight robot finalists who will participate in the final challenge to be held this December.

Another of DARPA’s novel creations that Hagel admired in the exhibit were the technology for prostheses. It included mechanical limbs that can be controlled by brain impulses or foot movements. Hagel was particularly impressed when a war veteran gave him a thumbs-up using his mechanical left hand, which he controlled through a device that was strapped to his feet.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Aside from calamities, what other situations do you think robots like Atlas can be useful for?
·         What do you think are the drawbacks of relying on robots in emergency situations?

Discussion B

·         Are you satisfied with the search and rescue operations in your country? Why or why not?
·         Do you think it’s better if robots replace public servants such as policemen and firemen? Please explain your answer.

June 18, 2014