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Robotics Hardware

First Armed Robots on Patrol in Iraq 661

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the number-johnny-five dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Robots have been roaming Iraq, since shortly after the war began. Now, for the first time — the first time in any war zone — the 'bots are carrying guns. The SWORDS robots, armed with M249 machine guns, "haven't fired their weapons yet," an Army official says. "But that'll be happening soon." The machines have actually been ready for a while, but safety concerns kept them off the battlefield. Now, the robots have kill switches, so "now we can kill the unit if it goes crazy," according to the Army. I feel safer already."
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First Armed Robots on Patrol in Iraq

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  • by UncleWilly (1128141) * <UncleWilly07@@@gmail...com> on Thursday August 02, 2007 @07:19PM (#20095345)

    The 'bots "haven't fired their weapons yet," Michael Zecca, the SWORDS program manager, tells DANGER ROOM. "But that'll be happening soon", he smiled evilly, petting his white cat.
  • Imagine... Robots without the three laws...
    • by Anonymous Crowhead (577505) on Thursday August 02, 2007 @07:24PM (#20095399)
      Oh, please. I, Robot was pretty much a treatise on how stupid those laws are.
      • by ricree (969643) on Thursday August 02, 2007 @08:05PM (#20095817)
        Not really. For the most part, I Robot showed that the laws tended to work pretty well. Of course, a story where everything always went smoothly wouldn't be particularly interesting, so he wrote about the interesting exceptions and contradictions that could arise. I just don't see how you managed to draw that conclusion from the book.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          He didn't read the book ... but he saw one wicked-assed movie with Will Smith!
      • by Deadstick (535032) on Thursday August 02, 2007 @08:44PM (#20096143)
        Ummm, no. I, Robot the MOVIE was a moronic travesty of I, Robot the ASIMOV NOVEL.

        rj

    • by mechsoph (716782)
      Somebody better get crackin' on those positronic brains then. You try teaching silicon what "harm" means.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lionheart1327 (841404)
      These things are about as close to Asimov's robots as my toaster is to my PC.

      These are not the kinds of robots that would need the 3 laws.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TubeSteak (669689)

        These things are about as close to Asimov's robots as my toaster is to my PC.

        They're a bit more complicated than a toaster, but you've got the right idea.

        Would you call a radio controlled car a robot?
        Attach a nerf gun to it. Is it a robot yet?
        Attach a machine gun to it. Is it a robot yet?
        No, No and No.

        Even the SWORDS wikipedia page [wikipedia.org] specifically says that it is not autonomous. Hence, not a robot.

        You might get away with calling this a telerobot, but it's really just a fancy remote control tank.

    • by hobbesmaster (592205) on Thursday August 02, 2007 @08:15PM (#20095915)
      What do the three laws of robotics have to do a remote controlled gun on wheels? Judging from what they were doing in the video, a soldier would have to be within a few hundred yards of the robot for it to receive commands (no huge transmitter on the robot or on the laptop they were using). This seems like it'd be a great idea in Iraq - breach a door, then send in the bots to check things out while our soldiers say outside in relative safety. (I do wonder about accurately reading the image on the screen during daylight in a desert though - maybe some goggles would be in order?)

      Also, looking at the little guy, I have to wonder how it takes a grenade hit... (and whether it could right itself after being tossed on to its side). Seems like a good platform for covering squads with cross fire, and maybe in performing the designated marksman role.
  • by qbwiz (87077) * <john.baumanfamily@com> on Thursday August 02, 2007 @07:20PM (#20095361) Homepage
    In this case, it might be better to call it a "do not kill" switch.
  • by superphreak (785821) on Thursday August 02, 2007 @07:23PM (#20095389) Homepage
    only three of the robots are currently in Iraq.

    Wow, that'll take care of business...
  • by markov_chain (202465) on Thursday August 02, 2007 @07:26PM (#20095423) Homepage
    "You have 20 seconds to drop your gun"

    Iraqi drops gun.

    "19... 18... 17..."

    Sorry :)
  • by cheezus (95036) on Thursday August 02, 2007 @07:27PM (#20095437) Homepage
    This dude thinks so:

    http://shitsnaz.blogspot.com/2007/07/us-army-gets- robot-idea-from-shitty.html [blogspot.com]

    " 1995, the movie "Evolver" is released to the public. This piece of shit is about a robot that goes crazy and kills people so it can win at laser tag. At one point, the two protagaonists/high school students of the movie break into a military research facility (!) and watch a video about a top-secret government project for a futuristic military robot. It was called project "SWORDS".
    The two acronyms and purposes of the robots are plain to see. It's painfully obvious to me that the Army stays up late and flips back and forth between demiporn on Cinemax and the horrible movies on USA. I can only imagine a researcher dropping his can of "Da Beast" to realize that, yes, there *has* to be a project SWORDS and a killer robot."
    • by Tuoqui (1091447)
      Damnit did you have to do that. Now they'll go revoking and burning the movies like they did to Tron and the Saturn V rockets in the name of Homeland Security!
  • Why would the military limit themselves to S-words when they can already drop the F-bomb?
  • He signs up for National Guard and the next thing he knows he's cruising the streets of Bagdad. Now for the really bad news robots don't get rotated stateside.
  • by syousef (465911) on Thursday August 02, 2007 @07:37PM (#20095541) Journal
    The robots also have a bad habit of killing anyone that answers the door in the affirmative to the name "Sarah Connor"
  • Great Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Detritus (11846) on Thursday August 02, 2007 @07:42PM (#20095589) Homepage
    I like it. It's no fun going out on patrol and being ordered into an area to see if you draw any enemy fire. The robot can be repaired.
    • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Thursday August 02, 2007 @07:57PM (#20095739)
      Gatling Gun: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gatling_gun [wikipedia.org]

      The purpose of this gun was to save lives. Dr Gatling figured that a gun that would shoot faster would mean that an army would need less soldiers to spray out the same number of buttets and therefore there would be less soldiers on the field getting killed and injured. Therefore the machine gun would save lives.

      Of course it did not work out that way.

      So now we have a bunch of robots running around. That should mean less soldiers getting killed, right?

      Wrong: Bot soldiers will eventually be used to do suicide missions that the meat variety won't do. That means more intense and grubby conflict which means more injury and deaths - not less.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chmcginn (201645) *
        But there will be less deaths of American soldiers, and that's all that most people in the country really care about, eh?

        A big deal gets made every time the American soldier & marine death count approaches some number... but they can't even get decent estimates on the number of Iraqis killed...

      • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2014@virtual-estates.net> on Thursday August 02, 2007 @09:02PM (#20096293) Homepage

        So now we have a bunch of robots running around. That should mean less soldiers getting killed, right?

        Yes, very likely. The high-tech of the war is astounding. We lost 50K Americans in the Korean War [wikipedia.org], for example — plus about half a million Chinese soldiers died and millions of Koreans (civilians and not).

        This war? Less then 4K dead Americans. Technology helps a great deal — and not only to the side, that has it.

        Wrong: Bot soldiers will eventually be used to do suicide missions that the meat variety won't do. That means more intense and grubby conflict which means more injury and deaths - not less.

        The second sentence does not follow from the first. Quite the opposite. For example, instead of calling on Air Force to level a building with a sniper-nest on the roof, using these bots our forces could deal with the sniper without leaving dozens of residents homeless (and some dead).

        Call me old-fashioned, but I do rejoice at my side's progress...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Headw1nd (829599)
          The problem with this reasoning is that you're applying it to asymmetric warfare, in assuming that one side has killer robots and the other does not. The parent poster is more than likely right in positing that in a symmetric conflict where both sides had this kind of armament, casualties would actually increase as a result.
  • Erratic behaviour (Score:5, Insightful)

    by simonharvey (605068) on Thursday August 02, 2007 @07:44PM (#20095623) Homepage

    Now, the robots have kill switches, so "now we can kill the unit if it goes crazy," according to the Army. I feel safer already."
    As an engineer that designs industrial equipment, all of which involves paying incredible detail to the small things in order to protect the user from injury or loss of life, I am very amazed to hear that the US Army would use control protocols and algorithms that are so flaky that the robots are described as "going crazy" when they misbehave. Especially when they are carrying weapons!

    And the only results they have is a simple kill/estop switch, which (and I am guessing) whose command code is probably transmitted along the same comm pathway as the other command codes.


    Wow
    Simon H

  • After seeing the video, I'm pretty sure that s-words might be more effective than this "bot".
  • by GFree (853379) on Thursday August 02, 2007 @07:49PM (#20095661)
    The project is considered a failure due to the mass number of cowardly robots forgetting to fire their weapons, instead shouting "NO DISSEMBLE!!!" in the hopes they aren't turned into scrap metal.

    However, the project is eventually reborn by turning the bots into chefs for the real troops. One was heard talking to itself:

    Number 5: Okay, to make these golden fluffy pancakes... add flour, milk and eggs... Mix thoroughly...
    [uses his own motor to rotate the mixer - the bowl contents splatter all over the room]
    Number 5: Ooooo... Still lumpy!
  • Predators? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by flyingfsck (986395) on Thursday August 02, 2007 @07:54PM (#20095701)
    We have had armed flying robots for some time already.
  • Hardware (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bigattichouse (527527) on Thursday August 02, 2007 @07:55PM (#20095721) Homepage
    I remember this movie! "Hardware" circa 1989. The movie has like 10 different endings, a damn good soundtrack, and lots of bad acting. Spoiler: Guy finds pieces of a battlebot on the field and gives to his girlfriend to use in her art. Machine rebuilds itself, kills fat stalker (Oh we all walk, the wifferly wafferly walk...), really awesome sex scene, and well, rambles on worse than my post. I wonder if armed robots fall under geneva conventions.. oh, wait, our administration quit the geneva conventions right before they started "streamlining" our Bill of Rights. I really feel sorry for a kid that runs across one of these ED-209's
  • Nuff Said.

    -Adeptus
  • Is that the one where the robot gets a point blank bullet in the CPU, and stays in a coma for 4 microseconds, then goes on a rampage of bloody revenge against lieutenant Switch, the CO who ordered the shutdown? I remember that one, in the end Switch takes out his HP pocket calculator, and him, the robot and the calculator, they all solve the equation x^2 + 1 = 0 together for the last time, then the robot kills Switch with a five point exploding battery technique and drives off into the Iraqi desert with the
  • by Plazmid (1132467) on Thursday August 02, 2007 @08:07PM (#20095843)
    Back during WWII the Russians built radio control "Teletanks" that were controlled by a human operator in another tank. They were equipped with far more firepower than SWORDS, so technically SWORDS is NOT the first armed robot. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teletank [wikipedia.org]
    • by Black-Man (198831) on Thursday August 02, 2007 @08:45PM (#20096147)
      The also used dogs w/ bombs strapped to them and trained them by feeding them under tanks. They set them loose on the battle field and the ones that didn't freak out ran under the tanks where they were promptly blown by radio control.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by meringuoid (568297)
        The also used dogs w/ bombs strapped to them and trained them by feeding them under tanks. They set them loose on the battle field and the ones that didn't freak out ran under the tanks where they were promptly blown by radio control.

        Alas, the dogs had learned in training to associate food with the undersides of Soviet tanks, not German tanks. The result of all this was predictable.

  • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2014@virtual-estates.net> on Thursday August 02, 2007 @08:13PM (#20095903) Homepage

    Artillery projectiles and bombs were "deciding" when to blow up for well over a century now...

    Their logic was far more simplistic, of course.

    Various traps where harmful "robots" too — mechanisms, designed to kill their intended victim automatically. These traps, and their descendants — land-mines — have killed many thousands of unintended victims since.

    Our technology is progressing, and so does the military section of it... Although this weapon is novel, there is nothing new in principle here.

  • Easier to hate (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Aqua OS X (458522) on Thursday August 02, 2007 @09:02PM (#20096297)
    Easy to hate: An occupying force has replaced your disbanded your military and technocratic society.
    Easier to hate: An army of faceless scary-ass future-bots who have replaced your disbanded your military and technocratic society.

    If there's anything I've learned from SciFi it's this - Controlling robots is awesome, but being controlled by robots results in pissed off people and counter insurgency. (Not that we haven't already hit that milestone without gun toting robots.)

    And as jokingly sarcastic as that may be, I'm somewhat serious. I'm all for keeping out troops out of harm's way, but I'm somewhat curious about the blowback that results from being attacked by T-100's. Ground combat robots seem like something that might serve to dehumanize Americans during a time when we really need to do the complete opposite.
  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Thursday August 02, 2007 @10:07PM (#20096795)
    1) No peripheral vision
    2) No armor
    3) Easily taken out by a paint ball gun
    4) Easily taken out by a sheet
    5) Easily taken out by a well thrown egg
    6) I suspect these are going to be easily taken out by jamming equipment that would fit in a van.

    okay 3-5 are "Has only one eye that is unarmored and mounted pointing forwards"

    These cheeseheads seem to think the enemy is going to not attack the weakest spot.

    This should have 50 vision systems mounted all over it and easy to switch too. It should probably have three operators to watch to the sides, above and behind. The video feed back should be a composited image from 6 cameras with most of it being the forward mounted camera but some of it being the other cameras so if you see movement you can zoom in.

    Armor-- it needs armor. A couple machine gun volleys are going to shred the thing. The video shows them scouting out the sniper who is not allows to fire back at the robots. The bombs over there are flipping Abrahms tanks-- that is a pretty big bomb. The treads look like a couple 50 caliber rounds would disable them.

    I think they are great for entering a building and being destroyed after taking out one or two insurgents. They are great for reducing risk at the trade of some dollars. They may be great for breaking enemy lines since you could pin the guys down with gunfire and then run your robots over with grenade launchers or something like that. It's not like the robots are worthless.

    But they show typical optimistic "everything will work perfectly and our enemies are stupid as bricks" thinking. What they need to do before letting these things loose is give a group of a dozen smart guys about 500 grand to disable and overcome a squad of these things.

    At a minimum, you should not be able to disable one of them for 25% of it's cost.
  • Old Glory (Score:3, Funny)

    by evilviper (135110) on Thursday August 02, 2007 @11:52PM (#20097497) Journal
    As a senior citizen, you're probably aware of the threat robots pose. Robots are everywhere, and they eat old people's medicine for fuel. Well, now there's a company that offers coverage against the unfortunate event of robot attack, with Old Glory Insurance. Old Glory will cover you with no health check-up or age consideration. You need to feel safe. And that's harder and harder to do nowadays, because robots may strike at any time.

    And when they grab you with those metal claws, you can't break free.. because they're made of metal, and robots are strong. Now, for only $4 a month, you can achieve peace of mind in a world full of crime and robots, with Old Glory Insurance. So, don't cower under your afghan any longer. Make a choice.

    Old Glory Insurance. For when the metal ones decide to come for you - and they will.

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

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