CAMBRIDGE, MA—Several members of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology chapter of the Theta Tau fraternity are in campus-police custody today following a brutal hazing incident in which one robot remains missing and two others are in critical condition with extensive circuitry and servo-motor injuries, sources revealed Monday.
The robots, experimental prototypes recently devised at MIT's prestigious Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, were participating in an apparent initiation exercise that police say involved butyl alcohol and compressed air.
According to eyewitnesses, the three robots were ripped from their chargers at the Theta Tau chapter house at 3 a.m. Tuesday. One, a titanium-alloy hexapod approximately 13 inches in diameter, was reportedly forced to climb stairs built at a grade too steep for its small hinged legs, causing six of its pneumatic actuators to short out. A second robot, a biped from MIT's Leg Laboratory, was allegedly forced to replicate "the same humiliating hopping algorithm" 200,000 times, and is currently in critical condition in the laboratory's emergency-repair room.
The third robot, a tread-driven 38-inch-tall rover, is feared drowned after being forced to consume over 40 terabytes of data and then swim across the Charles River with a burning candle stuck in its rear port.
"We will thoroughly investigate this matter, and take strong disciplinary action," MIT Dean of Students Geraldine Knight said. "These robots are extremely artificially intelligent. They wouldn't willingly subject themselves to this sort of abuse without extreme levels of peer pressure or even downright reprogramming."
Among those detained for questioning were Theta Tau chapter president David Kovis, treasurer Charles Leung, and fraternity members Lee Berger, Andy Ockridge, A. Muduthanapally, and Chen Kwan Tan. They could be charged with first-degree botslaughter and operating a motorized robot under the influence, charges that carry a maximum punishment of lifetime banishment from the MIT Media lab.
This is not the first case of robot hazing on the campus. Last fall, during "Rush Week," a spider-legged unit was found struggling in a closet at MIT's School of Engineering, stripped of its outer casing, its motion sensors covered with duct tape. The perpetrators were never found.
On another occasion, a robot was locked in a room and forced to calculate pi to the 1083 decimal place in what officials called one of the worst cases of binge-thinking they'd ever seen.
This latest incident comes in the wake of a February episode in which an ambulating chatbot device created at Caltech was programmed to repeat the phrase "I am a faggot" while locomoting across campus.
Robots have also reportedly been made to fight each other, often to total annihilation, in the basements of applied-science-based campus fraternal organizations during their respective "hell weeks."
A spokesman for the Theta Tau fraternity claimed that the "fun just got out of hand," and that the robot pledges were "100 percent cool with the initiation."
"They showed us they were willing to do anything to be Theta Tau brothers. Loyalty, commitment, and conformity are what the Greek system is all about," the spokesman said.
In protest, human-emotion-simulator robot Kismet, a respected member of the MIT community, announced that it will only display an expression of disapproval—refusing to smile, show fear, or raise a curious eyebrow—until those responsible receive appropriate punishment.