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Adventures in Engineering
The wanderings of a modern ronin.

Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2006-03-15 06:44
  Subject:   [Digg] I, for one, will try not to stand in front of our new, large caliber robot overlords.
Public
Next month [February, 2005], the US Army will be putting robot soldiers in the field in Iraq. The SWORDS (Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection Systems) robots are fully armed; when the human operator verifies that a suitable target is within sight, it fires. They are equipped with either the M249 (which fires 5.56-millimeter rounds at 750 rounds per minute) or the M240 (which fires 7.62-millimeter rounds at up to 1,000 per minute).

These robots are poised be the first working robots that are actually designed to break Isaac Asimov's First Law of Robotics:

"A robot may not injure a human being, or through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm."


http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum=320
Post A Comment | 7 Comments | | Link






  User: randomchris
  Date: 2006-03-15 10:00 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
They're more like remote-control cars than robots, really - not autonomous. But you knew that, I'm just a pedant.
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Ben Cantrick
  User: mackys
  Date: 2006-03-15 17:51 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
I had the same thought. I'm not sure where that line between waldo and robot gets drawn. The robot arms that assemble cars are pretty much zero intelligence too, but I think of them as robots anyway. On the other hand, those arms at least do their work without human intervention almost all the time, no matter how dumb they may be. So I dunno.
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Alex Belits: abi-station-small
  User: abelits
  Date: 2006-03-16 05:53 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
Keyword:abi-station-small
Is there anything in Iraq that prevents insurgents from creating huge amounts of electromagnetic noise to jam the signal or, in the case or more advanced insurgents, damaging electronics with EMP? Or just messing with its cameras?

I understand how remote-controlled robots may be useful for observation, disarming bombs, checking for boobytraps, placing explosives somewhere, etc., but all those applications have two things in common -- robot does not have to be armed, and it is supposed to be expendable.

An armed robot may do some damage to the enemy first few times when it's used, and then everyone would know where to look for it and how to break it. And what is more important, it instantly becomes a high-payoff target, so anyone with half a brain will first make sure that robots are destroyed, or their sensors and signals are jammed, then attack soldiers whom those robots were supposed to protect. Worse yet, firing an automatic weapon with any precision requires some pretty heavy and slow servos/gearboxes/dampeners/..., so such a robot will be useless for any task other than rolling around and shooting.

I think, this is merely a part of the never ending search for a way to kill people with absolutely no risk to oneself, that US military is so fond of. The article is more than a year old, and I haven't heard about any success of this program, or even that insurgents bothered to develop anything specifically against robots, so I guess, it didn't go beyond a dog and pony show.
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Ben Cantrick
  User: mackys
  Date: 2006-03-16 06:28 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
The only thing I can think of that these kind of robots would be good for would be clearing a building. You can send them in to do a crude check of all the rooms, and anyone stupid enough to fire on the robot will get a major hail of lead coming at them pretty fast, with no chance of a soldier being injured.
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Alex Belits: abi-station-small
  User: abelits
  Date: 2006-03-16 07:10 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
Keyword:abi-station-small
They are modern robots, not Daleks. Concrete buildings will block signal, robots won't be able to pass across debris and through narrow doors. Stairs, ladders and hatches will keep them from moving between floors, so hiding and escaping from them will be relatively easy, and grenades will easily destroy them. So in scenarios "we just rolled into the town, and there are snipers everywhere" or "attacking a building with insurgents' heavy weapons/ammo stash, and some unknown number of guys defending it" robots won't do much, and it will be _less_ risky to send soldiers to chase insurgents through the building than to send robots and let insurgents attack you.

I guess, it will work against a bunch of stupid and disorganized people in some undamaged 1-2 floors building, surrounded by your forces, but if such a thing happened, most likely the enemy would surrender (or blow something up) at that point, robots or no robots.

If robots were so light that soldiers attacking a building can bring them to some floor, send through a corridor using short-range radio, optical or ultrasound link, to find out where enemies are, attack first and support soldiers by their fire, it would make sense. But then you have limits on robots' size and firepower far lower than what they describe.
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Alex Belits: mona
  User: abelits
  Date: 2006-03-18 01:50 (UTC)
  Subject:   Re: What doesn't change
Keyword:mona
This won't be a bad platform for concealed pyros. In fact if you added some image recongition technology it should be great at it. Worst case you might be able to add IR or chemical detectors. That would make this thing a IED killer.

It would be a great thing if it wasn't so huge and heavy. And it's huge and heavy only because it has to be armed. So it's back to my point that usefulness for all kinds of applications where a robot can be a good solution is sacrificed for the sake of making the robot armed. A comparable solution would be using Formula-1 cars for troop transportation.

Image recognition would be pointless because the whole thing is remote-controlled, and humans beat computer image recognition all the time.

As far as relying on enemy's changing tactics, there is a universal here. The insurgants in Iraq can not directly challange American or Iraqi forces on the ground without getting wiped out. This limits them to remote attacks or surprise attacks. VBIED's are no longer effective because of changes that we have made. Likewise snipers aren't effective any more as well. Both of thoose were remote or surprise attacks. IED's are still effective and Suicide bombers are effective. Make thoose less effective.

So basically since insurgents are good at changing their tactics to adapt to the Americans' capabilities, Americans should deploy a monstrously expensive program assuming that insurgents would not make some obvious changes to make it ineffective?

At this point, I think the next round is going to be trying to get more terrorists into police uniforms and pulling off assasinations.

Quick, make some robocops for them!

But that is a threat at the Iraqi's not the US soilders.

From this point of view the best solution is to get the hell out (did wonders in Vietnam, too bad, it was way too late then). However even assuming that there is a point in fighting there, this robot is good at doing things that are not useful, and bad at doing things that are. What is a bad design.
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Alex Belits
  User: abelits
  Date: 2006-03-17 22:46 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
This kind of robot is absolutely worthless against IED -- it won't be able to disarm or trigger it. All it can do is roll around and shoot, so it is either for defending an area that you just got under your control and have no other means to secure it in a short term, or for storming the enemy's positions.

A IED has to be hidden somewhere the US doesn't expect but patrols. Remote detonation by RF no longer works, so it usually has to be wired up to a Jihadist somewhere near by (who also videotapes it for the local media). They then blow it up when a US infrantry man, woman, shiite, kurd or goat wanders by.

This robot is not good for going after concealed targets, either, and relying on enemy never changing its tactics is stupid.
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