Replacing fighter planes and reconnaissance aircraft with robotic drones turned out to be a far easier task for the military than replacing soldiers with bots. But DARPA remains determined to one day enlist robots for all military jobs, and, among other research, it's working hard to develop a relatively low-cost set of artificial arms and hands that can perform everyday mundane tasks.
When compared to the pit crews used in professional auto racing, watching the latest developments of DARPA's ARM — or Autonomous Robotic Manipulation — program change a simple tire is downright embarrassing. But when you consider the robot doing the work was not given step-by-step instructions on how to actually change a tyre, it's suddenly pretty damn impressive. Not to mention the fact that those robot hands gripping the drill only cost about $US3000 to build. That's not pocket change by any means, but in the world of advanced robotics, that's a bargain. [DARPA]