This computer learning to walk is a great metaphor for life

Watching a baby take its first steps is a timeless, heartwarming event. But what about a computer sim?


Audra Schroeder

Internet Culture

Published Jan 14, 2014   Updated May 31, 2021, 9:27 pm CDT

Watching a baby take its first steps is a timeless, heartwarming life event. But what about watching a computer simulation learn how to walk?

Featured Video Hide

This video from late 2013, titled “Flexible Muscle-Based Locomotion for Bipedal Creatures,” shows how different generations of computer simulations evolve, and eventually learn to walk on two legs. The engineers run the sims through different obstacles, including a Wipeout-like course in which brown blocks are thrown at a sim walking on a narrow plank, until a giant block finally causes it to fall off. 

Advertisement Hide

Seeing these semi-sentient beings attempt to walk, run, and fend off boxes is unintentionally funny. But if robots will eventually rule us in the imminent technodystopia, hopefully they’ll engage in some physical comedy for our amusement.

Or maybe they’re getting that all out of their system now.


Advertisement Hide

On Reddit, where the video appeared today, a thread has unspooled about how these awkward computer simulations are appropriate metaphors for life (see above), and how their movements resemble a vintage video game. “Oh my god they even do the Mortal Kombat idle animation wiggle,” said one.

It’s all lulz until there’s a robot boot on your neck. 

Screengrab via John Goatstream/Vimeo

Share this article
*First Published: Jan 14, 2014, 1:40 pm CST