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Skiing robots get their own Winter Olympics on South Korean mountain

Miles away from the site of the site of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea, eight teams raced skiing robots down a mountain for a chance to win $10,000.

If you think A.I. is going to take over humanity anytime soon, here’s a sight that’ll make you reconsider: clumsy, child-size robots skiing (and crashing) down a mountain.

The robots competed this week in South Korea’s “Edge of Robot: Ski Robot Challenge,” which included eight robotics teams from across the country, and was held at a 260-foot skiing course at Welli Hilli Ski Resort, just a short drive away from the site of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

Teams had to follow a few basic rules: Each robot had to be humanoid in form, with two legs and joints resembling knees and elbows. They also had to be at least 50 centimeters tall, use an independent power supply, and wield regular poles and skis.

The robots used camera sensors to detect flagpoles that lined the beginners ski course.

Ski-bot point of view

“I’m amazed that the robots recognize the flags as they can ski down while avoiding them,” said 12-year-old spectator Son Ki-ryong to Reuters

The winner was the smallest robot on the course: the TaekwonV robot, built by the South Korean robotics company Minirobot, which was awarded $10,000. The ski-bot made it down the slope in 18 seconds.

Some ski-bots were a bit less graceful.

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South Korea is a fitting home for robot sports. It’s one of the world’s most technologically advanced countries, and in January it topped the Bloomberg Innovation Index for the second year in a row. South Korea’s mega conglomerates like Samsung and LG help the country sell more robots each year than any other besides China, which is 95 times bigger and 25 times more populous, as BBC reports.

Organizers hope the race will help bring more attention to South Korea’s thriving robotics industry.

“I think in the future robots will have their own Winter Games on the sidelines of the Olympics held by humans,” said organizer Kim Dong-uk to Reuters.


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