In Frederik Pohl's 1954 short story The Midas Plague, human beings were no longer able to keep up with the consumption requirements of the modern consumer economy. Somebody needed to wear out all of that consumer gear. So, robots took up the slack:
There was the butler robot, hard at work, his copper face expressionless. Dressed in Morey's own sports knickers and golfing shoes, the robot solemnly hit a ball against the wall, picked it up and teed it, hit it again, over and again, with Morey's own clubs. Until the ball wore ragged and was replaced: and the shafts of the clubs leaned out of true; and the close-stitched seams of the clothing began to stretch and abrade.
(Read more about Pohl's consumption robots)
Boston Dynamics has been working hard on their own version of this idea - the PETMAN (Protection Ensemble test Mannequin) robot. The video below shows initial testing in a chemical protection suit and gas mask. PETMAN has sensors embedded in its skin that detect any chemicals leaking through the suit. The skin also maintains a micro-climate inside the clothing by sweating and regulating temperature.
PETMAN's realistic, anthropomorphic movement allows the realistic testing of equipment intended for use by people. And once Boston Dynamics has perfected human movement, can other humanoid robots be far behind?
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/5/2013)