To many people, "military robots" mean unmanned aerial or ground vehicles. Many military robots fit these categories, but some go way beyond this definition.
For example, we've reported before on Boston Dynamics robots that mimic human, animal, and insect movements. The Georgia Institute of Technology's Scalybots mimic a snake's movements. Designers of these tactical robots are trying to come up with small machines with rugged design, multiple data collection and communication methods, long battery life, the ability to negotiate rough terrain, and, in some cases, lifting and grasping capabilities. The goal is to go where humans can't without risking their lives.
Click on the image below to start a slideshow highlighting 14 robotic soldiers.
The Machine Lab's MMP-30 Mechanical Mobile Platform is used for explosive ordnance disposal in Iraq. It weighs 50 pounds (including control unit), measures about 23 inches long when collapsed, and can be carried in a backpack. Its pan/tilt color infrared camera has 180-degree pan and 150-degree tilt. The robot also sports a color, wide-angle gripper camera and a color, wide-angle rear-facing camera. The four-axis arm has a 20-inch reach and can lift five pounds at full extension. (Source: The Machine Lab)
From some of the pictures I've seen they look kind of like Chinese toys only bigger that you get in a Happy Meal. I wonder how long it will be before Toys R Us are selling things that look like that and then how long an engineer (like the ones that read this mag) "Upgrade" one of the toys.
I agree that even the most benign invention can be perverted, but some are much more amenable than others. In my first job out of college, we worked on instruments for an experimental airplane called the TFX. I expressed some ethical concerns that this was a military project. The boss reassured me, "This is a purely defensive interceptor.. Can you object to stopping an enemy bomber that wants blow up your mother?" The TFX, of course, became the F-111 which the Air Force then used to slaughter the people of Viet Nam. Since then I have refused to work on any military projects no matter how lucrative the pay or benign their disguises.
I do not deny the right or even the obligation of a country to defend itself but US armaments have gone far beyond any plausible defensive function, and we are also selling and giving them to some highly dubious customers.
I think this discussion is bringing up a good point: that no matter what original purpose a technology is developed for, it can be applied to some other use. Many of the same basic robot functions and design platforms used in medical and rescue robots are also used in military robots. robatnorcross is right--the original Predator drone started out as a surveillance tool and ended up dropping missiles. And so is Island_Al--many other military organizations are developing weaponized robots.
Yes, that makes sense, Jmiller. The difference here is the likely expense of these robots may never be affordable to civilian or small government (municipal) entities. So, as Ann suggested, these may have to be subsidized by the federal government if they are used for civilian search and rescue.
Sounds like this has been a behind-the-scenes industry for some time. That explains why the robots look so complex and highly developed. It will be interesting to see how soon these robots get deployed for civilian use.
@MyDesign: I know robots can be deployed for many great purposes, including these military applications. Being able to send a robot into harm's way instead of a soldier (or a rescue worker, for that matter) is invaluable and I applaud all the innovation and technical progress being made in order to do so.
Beth, Robots can be used to serve many purposes. Most of the robots are used in military warfare, space applications and atomic reactors, where human interactions are not possible. But that doesn't mean that robots are using only for such purposes, it can be used in industries and hospitals. Now a day's hospitals are also making use of robots service in ICUs and Operation (Surgery) theatre for assisting doctors.
I think often war or the desire to be viewed as the biggest and baddest without having to actually use the weapons has lead to several improvements to technology that eventually find their way into the private sector. And then some entreprenuer takes it to the next level and commercializes it.
I think this is a great way, although, not really given much credit, where the government develops a technology for the benefit of self defense and it results in advancements in technology. That in turn make our lives better.
I loved that show. I think I saw the U.S version of it though. I like to see all of the robot competitions and clubs and such that are encouraging our engineers of the future. I encourage anyone reading this to consider getting involved and volunteer your time to help youngsters to get excited about robotics.
It won't be too much longer and hardware design, as we used to know it, will be remembered alongside the slide rule and the Karnaugh map. You will need to move beyond those familiar bits and bytes into the new world of software centric design.
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