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)
Robotic Systems are fascinating and have come a long way from the days of working in industrial environments. I remember my first engineering job right out of college was to learn how to program a GMFanuc Industrial robot. Man, talk about a cool job and at that time (1986) the teach pendant was the device to program the robot to perform industrial jobs such as welding and painting. Now with today's wireless technology and visual programming software, robotic systems can easily developed and deployed in all types of applications including the military sector as illustrated in the slideshow.
Robotic systems absolutely fascinate me.Large or small, no matter how functional, they continue to grab my attention.With that being said, they also make me realize how marvelously complex the human body is.Could there ever be a computer better designed to drive the human robot than the three pound mass sitting on our shoulders?I don't think so.I fully agree with attempts to send robots where humans can't or shouldn't go.I have a buddy whose son served two tours in Iraq.One conversation with him will make you a believer in that robotic systems do save lives and continuing development is mandatory—especially for our soldiers and marines in far-flung theatres.
j-allen, thanks for sharing your real-world experience. That sounds like what I remember hearing from some friends who were in aerospace engineering back then, and since: technology initially defined/designed as defensive becomes offensive. That seems to be a very old story.
In cases where the task is very repeatable and requires no thought a robot would be very helpful in eliminating mistakes due to fatique or workers not paying attention. However, there are some cases where independant thought would be required. I'm thinking when I go into the IR I want a person telling me to count down from 10 to 1 not Mr. Roboto.
From a jobs standpoint I think of how being able to program such robots would be a good technical skill.
Sometimes it becomes imperative to defend one's country, and even one's self. The fundamental nature of defense requires more strength, of some kind, than the entity being defended against. In quite a few cases, having strength that is obviously greater than an adversary has made conflict avoidable. Sane folks will generally avoid a conflict where the obvious outcome is painful defeat. Consider that President Regan defeated the formidable USSR with the "Star Wars" defense system without any human casualties.
Robots used in warfare will allow our troops to avoid a lot of really bad situations, and they should therefore bring a reduction of casualties on our side. An added advantage will be the psychological effect on the opposition when they encounter things that have no fear. That may prove to be a valuable unintended consequence of using robots.
I was surprised at first about how many of the smaller robots look like toys, but I probably shouldn't be, since they're using the same basic technology and design ideas to solve similar design problems.
Probably all the software games that teens play have potential for being abused, Beth. Microsoft Flight Simulator seemed like a harmless way to teach kids and adults how to take off and land a small plane, but terrorists found another use for it.
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.
These are the toys that inspired budding engineers to try out sublime designs, create miniature structures, and experiment with bizarre contraptions using sets that could be torn down and reconstructed over and over.
PowerStream is deploying the microgrid at its headquarters to demonstrate how people can generate and distribute their own energy and make their homes and businesses more sustainable through renewables.
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