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Terminator-style robot busts leg in martial arts demo mishap

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Hong Kong University robotics researchers ended up with egg on their faces today when their new $2m walking robot tripped over and broke its leg while trying to strut its funky stuff at its first public performance.

HKU’s prize robot – called Atlas and created by Massachusetts Institute of Technology spin-off Boston Dynamics – was being shown off after the university acquired the mechanical man in a bid to compete against six rival establishments around the world to be the first to get the 'droid working fully.

Boston Dynamics Atlas at Hong Kong Uni

Atlas before the accident

US government research agency DARPA launched its Robotics Challenge earlier this year, and Boston Dynamics began shipping Atlases to participants this summer.

The HKU boffins in charge of the 1.9m tall, 150kg robot - one of only seven built and the first Atlas shipped to Asia - were chuffed to have managed to get the robot’s head, hands and body working in harmony, and had arranged the demonstration to show off their success to the media.

The smug scientists programmed the piston-packing poser to peform a series of killer tai chi moves, the South China Morning Post reports.

But right at the end of the manoeuvres the ambulatory android lost its balance and toppled over, snapping its ankle on impact.

Once they fix Atlas's ankle, the HKU Advanced Robotics Laboratory team will meet rivals from MIT, Lockheed Martin, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Carnegie Mellon University and others in the Robotics Challenge final in December.

According to Boston Dynamics, Atlas is a high mobility robot designed to negotiate difficult outdoor terrain. It was intended to be able to pick up objects and carry them in its arms. Its articulated, sensor-equipped hands are said to enable Atlas to use tools designed for human use. ®

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