Dennis Hong and his team at Virginia Tech were working from the premise that the best way to adapt a robot to a human environment is to mimic the human form. That way it can reach our cabinets and move fluidly through our homes. Now Hong and his team are trying to make something far more complex. This December, as you'll read in our cover story, CHARLI-L's descendant, a bulked-up, ruggedized prototype called THOR, will attempt the eight disaster-response tasks that make up the DARPA Robotics Challenge. No humanoid has managed these tasks before. Few can even wobble around a flat, stable surface. The idea that a robot is going to wield a saw or drive a truck next year is, well, audacious.