Posts Tagged robotics


Posted by on Monday, 23 November, 2009
Fighting Robots

Fighting Robots

Robots: They’re Indispensable Now.

Buying AA batteries for the toy robots in your gift bags?

Enjoy the fun.¬†But don’t imagine that the serious version is a plaything.

At least, not on the battlefield.

Milbots are flying, rolling, and walking for us in Iraq and Afghanistan. Humans still do most of the fighting and, sorry to say, take most of the hits.

But that may change.

The hellish beings in this video from 2008, give some idea of how advanced robotics has become. Watch how they handle themselves on ice.

Freaky enough?

These robots have got the “I’m alive” thing down but, at least, they aren’t killing anybody. To see the lethal stuff, you have to look at the things we’re buying from companies like IRobot and Foster Miller.

Foster Miller’s selection of military robots includes a shrunk-down “Man-Portable Talon” which makes for easy (if you happen to a very fit soldier) transport over Afghan mountains.

Foster Miller's MAARS System

Foster Miller's MAARS System

On my last visit to the company, I stepped quickly out of the path of one of its rolling weapons, remembering that these aren’t consumer products. Maybe (since they kill people) they aren’t as polite as elevator doors.

For some perspective, I called a friendly embedded systems developer in New Hampshire. (Embedded systems are the computers that’re buried inside things – ¬†including robots. They do the thinking and control the movements.)

A little bashful about using her name so we’ll call her Betsy.

Could one of these fighting machines get away from its handlers and just take off after someone?

She snorted.

These robots would be helpless without a human ‘driving’ them.

You DAMN well don’t want to be in front of one when it’s pissed but they don’t have a pigeon’s worth of real brains. A bigger danger is that there’s a screw-up and the robot does something dangerous.

Don’t forget, these machines are working in battlefield conditions.

What about the chances of this hardware falling into the wrong hands?

That depends on which ‘wrong hands’ you’re referring to. The guys we’re currently ‘not getting along with’ like asymmetric warfare.

Simple weapons. Make it up as you go along

I don’t think they have the infrastructure to manage this kind of weapon. But, in time, I have no doubt that they will find ways to acquire some robotic systems, maybe from states like Iran or North Korea.

That’s one of the reasons we can’t allow our technology to stagnate.

No ScienceAintSoBadRating on this one.