Yes Bert, of course. I was kind of being tongue and cheek there. I could swear I've seen a sci-fi movie where the robots had internal nuclear reactors that powered them. But I can't think of it and google has been no help. Maybe I made it up. In that case, maybe I should write the movie. :)
Nuclear reactor? With anything approaching the current state of the art, that would be way too bulky for such a device, I think. Just the shielding required would make such a contraption impractical. Same with "atomic cars" that were predicted back in the 1950s. Not likely.
Something more along the lines of fuel cells, perhaps?
Agree. If the think operated under its own power it would be much more impressive. But that would require some serious engineering and a lot of power, I imagine. I think in some sci-fi stories, robots like this are powered by their own internal nuclear reactor. That's another thing I would consider scary. Vey scary.
For example, Tom, how easy would it be for a wheeled robot to climb a cliff or a climb a tree? Not likely. Or to swim?
Or put it another way. If you think of a propeller as being a wheel evolved for moving in water, then how effective would the propeller be on dry land?
Like anything else in engineering, designs are always a tradeoff. It seems to me that going for the humanoid, or mammal-like, or just large-animal-like, form factor, will most likely reap the best rewards in terms of flexibility of use.
"Doesn't it seem that a human form might not be the best one to rescue people? Why wouldn't it look more like a Mars rover? Two legs seem like a much weaker proposal than a half-man, half-tank version. What do you think?"
The proof is in the pudding. I think that nature did not evolve animals with forelegs and hindlegs for no good reason. These appendages seem to be far better at negotiating just about any type of terrain than are wheels or tank treads. Even if they are probably not the best for maximum speed (due to the needed reciprocating motion, which wastes energy at high rates of speed compared with wheels).
And it also seems that the larger animals do not have a huge number of appendages, as some insects do.
There's no doubt also the fact that man likes to create creatures in his own image, as many have stated, but I really think that ultimately there's a darned good reason why the larger land animals look like they (and we) do.
I could see the robot being used to instill fear into an oncoming army --- those little go-kart robots just look cute an unthreatening, which can be deceptive. But I don't really get the humanoid form factor either. We are not the most graceful critters on the planet, and I suspect a lower center of gravity along with a third leg or wheels would be beneficial.
I agree with Caleb: these robot are learning tools, like concept cars. The engineers aren't thinking world domination yet. But then again, we do have drones flying around doing some serious damage to people. So some of scariest sci-fi nightmares are becoming reality. We wouldn't have those without engineers.
Someday all these robots in a museum. But in the meantime, I think they should strap the robot to a jet pack to test the jet pack for human use. But that's another discussion.