A humanoid robot with a head, hands and feet and also wearing stylish red sneakers boarded a flight for Germany at the Los Angeles International Airport on Monday, making it the first robot traveling as a paid passenger on an airline. Yahoo! News was there:
The robot, named Athena, created a scene at the Tom Bradley International Terminal as she was pushed in a wheelchair up to the Lufthansa counter to pick up her ticket to Frankfurt. Television crews swarmed, camera flashes went off and people aimed their cell-phone cameras at her, exclaiming: “It’s a robot!”
Built by the Salt Lake City engineering and robotics company Sarcos, Athena was purchased by Germany’s Max Planck Society, which along with researchers at the University of Southern California are trying to make her perform tasks too dangerous for humans, such as cleanup after the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan.
“We don’t want humans to go there and sacrifice their lives,” said Max Planck doctoral student Alexander Herzog, who was pushing Athena through the airport. “I would like to have a robot achieve the same task, such as opening up doors and cleaning up.”
Right now, Athena can do little more than sit and bask in attention. The software to make her legs move and stand is still in the works, though her arms can operate and her mouth glows blue on a white head fitted with cameras and sensors.