Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Robotics The Internet

The Inside Story of the Armed Robot Pullout Rumor 105

Posted by Zonk
from the see-how-these-things-get-started dept.
An anonymous reader writes "It appears that the initial rumor of the SWORDS robots being pulled out of Iraq — and its subsequent correction — were just that: sensationalizing in the blogosphere. Popular Mechanics has a lengthy update to its original scoop, digging into the sketchy responses from defense contractors when pressed about the bot's actual duties in battle. From the article: 'Although others have used our story to generate a false online rumor about these armed UGVs, the nature of those "technical issues" that Gotvald mentioned in his statement, and that Qinetiq and Foster-Miller have yet to address directly, remains a mystery. Until someone can explain why SWORDS lost its funding, and what exactly it is — and isn't — being used for in Iraq, the rumors are likely to continue. If this is the dawn of the era of robotic infantry, things are off to a decidedly rocky start.""
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Inside Story of the Armed Robot Pullout Rumor

Comments Filter:
  • First Steps (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ackthpt (218170) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @06:36PM (#23097646) Homepage Journal
    Whatever steps this robot is taking are baby steps.

    It's too easy to run about in circles with hands in the air, exclaiming 'Fail! Fail!' But this is the infancy. Regarding the maturity of robotic infantry, I have no doubt in my mind the worst fears will fall short of how some dispicable leaders will deplouy such devices.
    • On the other hand, if I were being terrorized by a robot I wouldn't be worried about the its family when I blew it away. Robotic infantry is probably not so bad, but I imagine the landscape of warfare will be changed once again.
      • On the other hand, if I were being terrorized by a robot I(t) wouldn't be worried about (my) family when I(t) blew (me) away.
      • Has one of them ever killed someone ?
        • Yes, at least I know of one example (can't remember the name though) where an armed UAV blew away one of Al-Quedas big wigs.
          • by 2.7182 (819680)
            I've remember that. How about someone killed by one of these ground based robots in combat ? (Aside from developments accidents - wasn't there one of those recently ? Although not with a mobile robot though I think...)
          • I'm pretty sure that UAVs still need a human to authorise fire.
    • "It's OK for the first bridge to fall down, we can always fix it with a service pack" or "well Beta bridges always fall down": that's not something you hear a civil engineer say.

      Same with a machine waving around a deadly weapon.

      • by AHumbleOpinion (546848) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @07:01PM (#23097952) Homepage
        Software is already waving around, or more accurately flying around, weapons. Today, many a pilot does not directly manipulate control surfaces to maneuver or activate a solenoid (or whatever, you get the idea) to drop a bomb. The pilot enters inputs into a computer requesting particular actions and the computer decides if and how to implement those requests, i.e. maneuver or drop bomb.

        The robots we are discussing here are somewhat comparable to modern combat aircraft. A person is making the decisions regarding maneuver and firing. One major difference is that the robot is remotely operated, unlike most aircraft.
        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by MadnessASAP (1052274)
          A critical distinction though is that after you enter the target into the planes computer you still need to hold the weapon release("pickle" switch) to allow the computer to drop the bomb. The computer may make the choice of exactly when to drop the bomb but a human still has complete control over the computer at the the time. These new robots take that human right out of the equation and are meant to operate without any human guidance.
          • by Enigma2175 (179646) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @10:48PM (#23099904) Homepage Journal

            A critical distinction though is that after you enter the target into the planes computer you still need to hold the weapon release("pickle" switch) to allow the computer to drop the bomb. The computer may make the choice of exactly when to drop the bomb but a human still has complete control over the computer at the the time. These new robots take that human right out of the equation and are meant to operate without any human guidance.
            Did you even RTFA? Here, let me quote part of it for you:

            Every UGV maker we've spoken to has stressed the importance of having a "man in the loop" when dealing with armed robots. As Predator drones have proven, an unmanned vehicle is capable of friendly fire, but the decision to engage will always be made by a human operator.

            Doesn't sound like they are "meant to operate without any human guidance" to me.

        • by couchslug (175151)
          "Software is already waving around, or more accurately flying around, weapons."

          In the case of the F-16, since (maiden flight) 1974.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Planesdragon (210349)

          The pilot enters inputs into a computer requesting particular actions and the computer decides if and how to implement those requests, i.e. maneuver or drop bomb.

          Ah, no.

          The computer decides HOW. The only time when it even comes close to "if" is if there's a fail-safe built in to the system -- and that's not so much deciding now to as being unable to figure out how.

          And if you think the Pilots in cockpits and controlling UAVs don't have to enter a specific command each and every time a weapon is fired, I've got a bridge to sell you

          • "The pilot enters inputs into a computer requesting particular actions and the computer decides if and how to implement those requests, i.e. maneuver or drop bomb."

            Ah, no. The computer decides HOW. The only time when it even comes close to "if" is if there's a fail-safe built in to the system -- and that's not so much deciding now to as being unable to figure out how.


            I pulled an Obama, I poorly worded the above. I'm not saying you ask for a bomb and it decides to maneuver. I am saying you as for a m
  • It seems that our military budget is a little high... When the US makes bombs and other weapons for this war, many of which will not be used, why do they pull this? These robots prevent soldier from being killed. The support for the war is at an all time low, I think it would be better for the Bush administration to pull it. So far, however, Obama is leading and he will likely pull this and we will be able to put this expanded military budget into the wretched economy. Overall, I think that pulling the robo
  • Maybe the story is just a way for Qinetiq and Foster-Miller to get more attention and attract more investors to a previously less-known-about company?
  • by Dunbal (464142) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @06:44PM (#23097754)
    Oh my, the title of this story leaves itself very, very open.

    Did it pull out in time? When can we expect the baby robots, do we finally have self replicating machines? Etc.
  • Of course (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dunbal (464142) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @06:50PM (#23097818)
    This is not the first time the American robotic army has attacked its own troops... [gizmodo.com]
  • welcome our new robot overlords...err, wait...or not...truth be damned, could someone please just tell the Blogonet to come to a hasty consensus and make up my feeble mind already?
  • I've read several reports of those pilotless drones firing from the air. I expect they're under remote control though.

    There's something that really bothers me about this robotic warfare business - it doesn't seem fair to fight a war that doesn't put your troops at risk. My concern is that if the US were able to wage war with no risk of life at all, it might become quite a bit more despotic to other countries.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by deft (253558)
      As opposed to how the actual despots in the regions of the world experiencing ethnic cleansing and warlords would act?

      The US uses smart bombs designed to NOT kill innocent people, to save the civillian lives. it avoids churches (who am i kidding, mosques), etc. back in the day Hannibal would just start in the north and kill or enslave everyone till he hit the water in the south. Much closer but still back int he day, it was carpet bombing back to the stone age, sorry if we hit the daycare.

      No other country h
      • by AHumbleOpinion (546848) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @07:30PM (#23098200) Homepage
        back in the day Hannibal would just start in the north and kill or enslave everyone till he hit the water in the south

        FWIW that was Roman propaganda. Hannibal was pretty good at forming alliances with tribes/cities that were not the most enthusiastic of Roman supporters. The preceding should not be interpreted to suggest that Hannibal was an easy going guy, for example he had an "interesting" way of using Roman prisoners to motivate his troops. He once took two prisoners (soldiers) and forced them to fight to the death. After the fight the winner was brutally and publicly tortured to death. The lesson to his own troops, it is better to die in battle than to be at the mercy of your enemy.
      • So the Nazis started putting radio transmitters in their steeples.

        You have a good point.

      • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @07:35PM (#23098254) Homepage
        The US uses smart bombs designed to NOT kill innocent people, to save the civillian lives. it avoids churches (who am i kidding, mosques), etc. back in the day Hannibal would just start in the north and kill or enslave everyone till he hit the water in the south. Much closer but still back int he day, it was carpet bombing back to the stone age, sorry if we hit the daycare.

        Smart bombs are a tiny, tiny fraction of ordinance dropped -- they just kept replaying the footage of the laser guided bomb dropping down a chimney to make you think all war we wage is nice and tidy like that. The vast majority are traditional bombs not all that much more accurate than the ones dropped in WWII -- which means, like in WWII, you need to drop a lot of them to make sure you hit anything, and they surely are going to cause "collateral damage". We've hit plenty of daycares in both Gulf Wars, and most of the time there isn't so much as a "sorry". Between that, and the "we don't do body counts" (meaning we don't measure our collateral damage), I have a hard time believing that the U.S. military really cares that much about saving innocents.

        Of course I'm not saying the U.S. is like the Mongol hordes or anything, raping and pillaging wantonly. Then again in the global political environment, and the realities of Iraq, we really couldn't be either. We're not trying to literally conquer Iraq by beating the whole country into submission, so if we started acting like it, well, two things would happen: 1) the insurgency in Iraq would explode to levels orders of magnitude beyond what we've seen and 2) our few remaining allies would bail on us, and we would probably start to figure out in short order why our trade deficit is a bad thing.

        We're doing our best, and we're a lot better than plenty of countries you could name, but lets not pretend that we're actually doing all that well. It's only by admitting our failings that we can keep getting better; if we just assume we're the best and that's that, we will surely backslide (and I think this has very much happened).

        Do you really think that swords is going to be fullt autonomous, like there isnt going to be a pilot to make sure. Of course there will be remote control to overide.

        Yeah I was very suspicious when I heard the story, because everything I'd heard was that the military was 100% committed to always having a human decision maker in the firing loop for these robots. And I think anyone who has watched Terminator, War Games, Matrix, or Short Circuit for that matter would agree that is a wise decision.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Planesdragon (210349)

          Smart bombs are a tiny, tiny fraction of ordinance dropped -- they just kept replaying the footage of the laser guided bomb dropping down a chimney to make you think all war we wage is nice and tidy like that. The vast majority are traditional bombs

          Sorry, your information is out of date.

          Concurrent to the invasion of Iraq the US Air Force started fitting JDAMs to its extant stockpile of munitions -- a small mass-produced pod attached to an extant weapon that turns a dumb bomb into a smart bomb.

          Last number I heard, the dumb/smart bomb ratio was at 50/50 and rising.

          I have a hard time believing that the U.S. military really cares that much about saving innocents.

          They don't so much care about saving innocents, as they care about not making life difficult for themselves. And, in most places they operate, that means not hitting a church or blowing up

          • by Chris Burke (6130)
            Last number I heard, the dumb/smart bomb ratio was at 50/50 and rising.

            Huh, okay, I guess I'll have to check out more recent info.

            They don't so much care about saving innocents, as they care about not making life difficult for themselves. And, in most places they operate, that means not hitting a church or blowing up an innocent without either advance warning or a clear intention on doing so.

            Yes, that's a very good way of putting it.

          • by afedaken (263115)

            Last number I heard, the dumb/smart bomb ratio was at 50/50 and rising.
            Correct. As we USE more and more of the conventional ordinance, and replace it with JDAM/Smart ordinance, of course the ratio will go up. :-(
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by bagsc (254194)
          "Smart bombs are a tiny, tiny fraction of ordinance dropped -- they just kept replaying the footage of the laser guided bomb dropping down a chimney to make you think all war we wage is nice and tidy like that."

          1991 called - they want their facts back.

          2002: 60% of munitions in Afghanistan were "smart"
          -DOD
          2003: Operation Iraqi Freedom - "Smart bombs like the JDAM have comprised 80 percent of the munitions used during this operation." USAF
      • by dbIII (701233)

        The US uses smart bombs designed to NOT kill innocent people, to save the civillian lives

        And then one gets used to go down an air shaft into a bomb shelter to deliberately kill a lot of civilians and then a press release proudly stating this comes out. It comes down to the morality of those that devise the plans and give the orders and how clueless they are about how their allies will react. A single bomb used on a shelter in an attempt to kill Saddams relatives in the earlier Gulf War and the gloating a

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Perf (14203)

        Geneva Conventions say that if army 1 uses civilians, hospitals, schools, etc. as a shield and fires on Army 2. Army 2 can fire back in self defense and any civilian casualties are the responsibility of Army 1.

        During the Korean War, the North Korean soldiers would often hide in a group of refugees and open fire at a U.N. checkpoint. When the U.N. soldiers fired back in self defense, the propaganda corp would have a field day.

        BTW, what is Osama binLaden's serial number? And what is the regulation un

        • by lareader (1191563)
          If they were just shot, I doubt there would be much hue and cry (well, of course, PR spin would be put in place "US kills single mother without mercy").

          It's the indefinite detention and probable torture that's iffy.
        • Since when do we care about the Geneva Conventions again? With the callous disregard to torture how can the US still expect treatment of our troops to fall within the guidelines? I love that the current administration knew they were doing something very bad by approving torture... 'Ashcroft asked aloud after one meeting: "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."'

          Since Bush suspended habeas corpus, not supporting other important documents shouldn't be all that

          • by Perf (14203)

            Think about it again.

            If you want the protection of the Geneva Conventions, you must fight according to them.

            When a terrorist disregards the Geneva Conventions and is captured, death is his due. Any lesser punishment is mercy on the part of his captors.

            Diplomatic Immunity stems from this. When a war breaks out, the diplomats are allowed to return home unmolested. If one side

            Back to the parent comment - in this war, far more than any other war, the U.S. has made every attempt to target only the bad

      • by Ironpoint (463916)

        The US uses smart bombs designed to NOT kill innocent people, to save the civillian lives. it avoids churches (who am i kidding, mosques), etc.
        Evidence?

        There are many, many videos available of mosques being destroyed in Iraq. Are you sure you aren't just repeating something you heard someone claim on television or in a newspaper?

        • There are many, many videos available of mosques being destroyed in Iraq...
          Yep. Sunnis blowing up Shiite Mosques, Shiite blowing up Sunni Mosques, the United States bombing Mosques used as terrorist bases...

          Got a reference to any of those, btw? With a date, and the name of someone who can be called to confirm that they happened?

          It's VERY easy to fake a video on the internet.
    • by AHumbleOpinion (546848) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @07:15PM (#23098072) Homepage
      There's something that really bothers me about this robotic warfare business - it doesn't seem fair to fight a war that doesn't put your troops at risk.

      The last thing a nation and its combat troops want is a fair fight and equitable risks. They want weapons that reach farther than the enemy's, armor that can stop the enemy's, and they would prefer to sneak up on the enemy and employ weapons before the enemy is aware of their presence. Combat is not a sport, there is and should be nothing fair about it.
      • by UttBuggly (871776)

        The last thing a nation and its combat troops want is a fair fight and equitable risks. They want weapons that reach farther than the enemy's, armor that can stop the enemy's, and they would prefer to sneak up on the enemy and employ weapons before the enemy is aware of their presence. Combat is not a sport, there is and should be nothing fair about it.

        Amen! History would support that absolutely. Most wars, conflicts, et. al., demonstrate what you state quite well. In modern history, Germany and Japan did just that with the Blitzkrieg and Pearl Harbor. We returned the favor with Hiroshima and Nagasaki a few years later. In both Desert Storm and the beginning of the current war, we had bigger, faster, slicker, neater toys. Remember the Iraqis shooting at nothing in 1991? An F-117 is probably not "fair", but I'm glad we have them...and use them.

        Ironically,

        • by lareader (1191563)
          The main concern is, I think, that if there is no personal risk involved in a war, starting or continuing one is much more likely since the public will tolerate them.
          Of course, it will allow some parity between large and small nations - it's faster to manufacture a few thousand robots than increasing your population.

          There are other concerns - economical for one, as a Mark One Homo Sapiens can be cheaper than big non-autonomous robots.

          I'm all for automating boring and risky tasks - I'm not sure that automati
      • I'm sure we've all heard the aphorism "All's fair in love and war"
    • by Dunbal (464142) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @07:15PM (#23098076)
      it doesn't seem fair to fight a war that doesn't put your troops at risk.

            Whoa there! What, would you expect everyone to wear boxing gloves and fight it out by weight class according to the Marquess of Queensbury rules or what?

            War is not about "fairness", it's not about dying for your country - it's about, as George Patton said - making the other poor bastard die for his. It's about surprise. It's about hitting your enemy with all your force in his weakest spot. It's about kicking him in the balls and then shooting him dead when he's on the ground. Because believe me if you let him get up again he's going to try his best to kill YOU.

            Although I personally don't agree with THIS particular war (Iraq), the less you expose your flesh and blood troops to enemy fire, the better. The only catch is the cost. Robot armies are more expensive to build, maintain and replace than some grunt with a rifle. Especially when you're getting charged millions of dollars in shipping to ship a couple washers to the war zone (yes I'm being sarcastic, but if it happened before it will happen again - fraudsters are creative bastards).

            Therefore perhaps it's possible to economically defeat your robot-deploying aggressor if you can make him lose enough robots - but you will pay a price in blood and morale. And after all maybe that's the key - knowing that you're going up against a machine and are probably going to die, and the enemy is controlling the machine from another continent.

            But then again morale has always been a tricky thing to judge. People used to think bombing cities would erode morale - but the effect is quite the opposite. Proven in World War 2, Vietnam, Korea and Iraq 1 with the "scuds". Bombing civilians only makes them angry, not "demoralized".

            Who knows how this will work out.
      • by lennier (44736) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @09:17PM (#23099198) Homepage
        " But then again morale has always been a tricky thing to judge. People used to think bombing cities would erode morale - but the effect is quite the opposite. Proven in World War 2, Vietnam, Korea and Iraq 1 with the "scuds". Bombing civilians only makes them angry, not "demoralized"."

        One of the problems I have with widespread deployment of ground combat robots is that it truly and literally 'depersonalises' the force using those robots in the eyes of not only the adversary, but of civilians witnessing the combat.

        When you're dealing with urban warfare / counterinsurgency situations, it seems like the *last* thing you want is for uncommitted bystanders to start seeing you as a bunch of soulless machine-operators killing their flesh-and-blood friends and relatives. At a stroke, you've then lost even the tenuous moral credibility you get from having actual people shooting and dying in the combat zone.

        Of course, you're most of the way there already by being suited up like Darth Vader and calling in airstrikes, so this battle should have been fought decades back - but increasing reliance on robots will not help win hearts and minds.

        When you're just trying to kill a bunch of people, okay, sure, robots ftw. But if you're trying to make them think you're human... not so much.
      • Whoa there! What, would you expect everyone to wear boxing gloves and fight it out by weight class according to the Marquess of Queensbury rules or what?
        Actually I want nations to duke it out with giant robots [imdb.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      "it doesn't seem fair to fight a war that doesn't put your troops at risk."

      Only a fool wants war to be "fair". There are two basic reasons for this:
      1. To be fighting a war necessitates that you hold the lives of your countrymen and the ways of your country as superior to those of the country you are fighting. It is impossible to "value everyone equally" and be fighting a war, because there is no reason to preserve your culture or life in preference to that of the enemy. In that light it is impossible to
      • by Qrlx (258924)
        So let's say you build the army of robots, and you can pull off the most amazing military operation with practically no risk. There's always the possibility that your shiny new toys will be used something bad, such as a coup, or indiscriminant massacres of civilians. Robots won't have to shoot through their tears like our boys at My-Lai.

        You know, we could win all our battles and not lose a man if we used neutron bombs and poison gas. But we've chosen not to go down that path. (Well, we've researched the
        • I don't think WMDs like neutron bombs or poison gas get any use in war because they do too much damage to the resources being fought over, but I don't buy for a second that it's some kind of honour or respect for humanity that stops any world leaders from using WMDs for their nation building.
          I don't particularly like the idea of armed robots either, but I have to question whether we can actually "decide not to build them". Sure we as a nation can decide not to build them, but I don't think that will stop
    • If there's one thing we should have learned by now, it's that people don't *really* care if their soldiers are getting blown up so long as they're still able to buy plasma TVs at Costco.

      I mean, sure -- you hear about GIs dying when it's fresh and interesting and the talking heads can spend time re-explaining what an IED is, but after a while people say to themselves, "Hey, I wonder what that crazy Britney girl has been up to?" and tune out. They vote back in politicians who more properly belong in prison

      • by lareader (1191563)
        Nah - the losses by the US has really been very, very small.
        Compare it to 'nam - there you'd see more unrest, but also more people dying.

        Using robots would decrease US losses further - I do not know if they would help the US "win the war" since the objectives of the war seems vaguely defined, but they would make the war less politically costly.

        However, using robots will dramatically *increase* the amount of resources used - a "grunt" is remarkably versatile and on the whole cheap (on the pay balance-sheet).
    • by mi (197448)

      it doesn't seem fair to fight a war that doesn't put your troops at risk.

      Fair? What is this, some sort of sport for you? We are not in competition here — we want to be able to crush an opponent as quickly and painlessly, as possible.

      My concern is that if the US were able to wage war with no risk of life at all, it might become quite a bit more despotic to other countries.

      How many fellow Americans are you willing to sacrifice to alleviate this concern? Not to depose a (real) despot, not to win a wa

      • by Qrlx (258924)
        I read your response and the contents of your sig.

        I suspect that if the Arab nations were on the verge of deploying autonomous military robots, you would be willing to sacrifice a very large numbers of Americans to alleviate the very thing you just claimed was a bogus concern.

        Be well.
        • by mi (197448)

          you would be willing to sacrifice a very large numbers of Americans to alleviate the very thing you just claimed was a bogus concern.

          Not for that, but to win a war.

          And no, I never called Arab despotism a bogus concern. I called "America's despotism" a bogus concern. There is no "symmetry" here.

    • by STrinity (723872)
      Fairness is not a martial virtue.

      Bravery is not a martial virtue.

      The goal of the military is to win wars with the the fewest amount of casualties possible.
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @07:02PM (#23097962) Journal
    Hardware meets software at the corner of 'I didn't know it would do that' and 'how the fuck can a sensor cost that much' ...

    If they pulled the funding I'm willing to bet that there are political reasons.

    Other than that, there is only so much you can get a given set of hardware pieces to do. If they overpromised and underdelivered on the hardware, no more dollars for you!

    The trouble with robots is that they are not quite like jet planes. Once you commit on a new jet, you have to wait for it to be a complete failure in the field, and have already invested millions of dollars. When the investment is orders of magnitude less, it takes less of a reason to decide to pull funding.

    If the govt. folk want a robot that just has to do things that can't be done in that form factor, or for the stated price, it's a game of get your money and get out of the contracting for a bit only to come back later for more contracts.

    Perhaps the real reason it's being pulled is that it is designed for urban combat in non-sandy areas? Like say... oh... fucking main street in your home town?

    If Iraq was just the proving ground for gen-1 of robocop, pulling funding is a way to push it underground and out of the public view untill they can pull it out of the robocop dispatch center and use it against the appropriately large starving/out of work demonstrators in a city near you.

    No, no tin foil hat for me, I truly do believe that the neocons and the Bush administration are exactly that evil.
    • by CompMD (522020)
      "Perhaps the real reason it's being pulled is that it is designed for urban combat in non-sandy areas? Like say... oh... fucking main street in your home town?"

      No. I worked on a contract for developing a fully autonomous guidance system for the SWORDS/TALON robot. I didn't even have the high-end military treads on mine, and it could go wherever it damn well pleased. FYI, a TALON was stored on the roof of a HMMWV in Iraq. The vehicle was on a bridge over a river and swerved, and the TALON fell off, into
      • by zappepcs (820751)

        I worked on a contract for developing a fully autonomous guidance system for the SWORDS/TALON robot.
        Would you mind (if you can) detail a bit more at high level what 'fully autonomous' means in this instance... for the home viewers?
        • by CompMD (522020)
          Sure, I worked on "fully autonomous" guidance and navigation as a 3rd party upgrade to the SWORDS/TALON robot. This was so the robot could navigate through adverse visual conditions. For example, if a TALON was going into an area of heavy smoke where a firefighter was hurt, the operator would have a hard time seeing anything since the views from all the cameras would be smoke. With autonomous navigation and knowing the location of the hurt firefighter, it could optimize a route to him and pull him to saf
  • ....and I thought this might have been the first /. article on new robotic AI anti-reproductive methods.
  • by Kenja (541830) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @07:15PM (#23098070)
    Damn that Sara Conner, keeps blowin up mah robots!

    Course, we can always make more death bots.
  • by WarJolt (990309)
    Armed unmanned ground vehicle. Nice name for a gun wielding robot.

    So I assume these are radio controlled. Two reason I never thought these would work.

    A. It's easy to jam a signal in a relatively close distance.

    B. Just like computers once you have physical access to the hardware it's easy to take control of it, like in terminator when they took control of the robot. Much safer for unmanned vehicles to be in the air. Harder to get your hands on them
    • by SL Baur (19540)

      Armed unmanned ground vehicle. Nice name for a gun wielding robot.

      So I assume these are radio controlled. Two reason I never thought these would work.
      That's a bad assumption, so I won't bother responding to your conclusions.

      None of the robotic prototype weapons I saw while working for a defense contractor in the 1980s were radio controlled.
  • We're not pulling out!
  • Weren't the self-replicating robots Philip K. Dick had in one of his stories called SWORDS? The one with the Americans on the moon using them to unleash hell on the Soviets on earth if I recall correctly, I think there was a low-budget movie based on it.
  • Does anyone else think that our modern military personnel [wikipedia.org] spent a little too much time [gijoepit.com] playing [gijoepit.com] G.I. Joe [gijoepit.com] as a kid?
  • We really will have a robot revolt on our hands if the robots don't pull out. Eeeeevvry bit is saaaaaacred, eeeevry bit is greeeeaaaat.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Overzeetop (214511)
      Every bit is sacred? Is that how robots do it, a whole bunch of 1's headed in a race to get to the 0 first? The two bits become a nibble, nibbles become bytes, bytes become words, and pretty soon you've got the start of a new robot?

      (All you old timers...how long since you've heard of four bits as a nibble? Wasn't that the name of an Apple magazine?)
      • At least someone got the joke.
        Don't forget, about crumbs and octets, though.
      • by Chris Burke (6130)
        (All you old timers...how long since you've heard of four bits as a nibble? Wasn't that the name of an Apple magazine?)

        Actually I still use it all the time. Especially when discussing say the hexadecimal value of a config register or a page table entry, we'll say things like "The 3rd nibble should be F".
  • i don't read it much, but i see a couple of issues laying around where i work sometimes. the magazine seems TO ME to be some kind of ad mag for weapons and military tech. but i'm not a regular reader.
  • by mykepredko (40154) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @10:27PM (#23099746) Homepage
    Reading through the article, I found that Qinetiq put in the following quote:

    SWORDS is currently deployed in Iraq, and has been there uninterrupted for almost a year.
      There have been no instances of uncommanded or unexpected movements by SWORDS during this period, whether in-theatre or elsewhere. A few years ago during the robot's development, there were three minor movement issues that were expected, identified and addressed during rigorous stateside testing--prior to the Army's Safety Confirmation back in 2006. Here is what actually happened:
    - One uncommanded movement was caused by a loose wire (result: redundant wiring on every circuit).
    - One was caused by a solder break (result: double solder).
    - The third, which may not even count, was a test of the robot sitting on a 45-degree incline in 90-degree heat to see how long it would last. After about two hours and 30 minutes, the motor started to overheat and shut down so it wouldn't burn out. That caused SWORDS to start to slide backward down the incline. The operator stopped it.

    Any comments made after this timeframe about setbacks related to the robotics industry were hypothetical--never in response to some nonexistent SWORDS incident after the Safety Confirmation.


    What is "double solder"? I can understand having redundant wiring and coming up with a way to automatically turn the robot perpendicularly to the slope to minimize energy lost keeping its place but you have to make sure the soldering is done correctly, you don't resolder something and expect it to be more reliable (actually, the reverse would be true).

    Can anybody comment?

    myke
    • by EotB (964562)
      Might be meaning solder top and bottom, assuming they are talking about thru-hole components that are wave soldered initially.
    • by hey! (33014)
      A "solder" is a "soldier" missing an "i".

      A double solder is probably a military robot with failures in both of its redundant vision systems.
  • by MixMasterAnonCoward (1273834) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @10:54PM (#23099938)
    I recently published a law journal article that was featured on BoingBoing today that addresses many of these issues, particularly with respect to autonomous and brain-interfaced weapons. A summary can be found here: http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2008/04/neuroweapons_war_cr.html [mindhacks.com]. The article itself can be found here: http://organizations.lawschool.cornell.edu/ilj/issues/41.1/CIN109.pdf [cornell.edu].
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @11:25PM (#23100182) Homepage

    Foster-Miller has several robot product lines. The TALON line is widely deployed, mostly for bomb squad use and such. There are a number of variants. The SWORDS robots appear to have been a low-volume prototype design. The new MAARS line is more modular, with field-replaceable options ranging from a manipulator arm to a gun turret, and different configurations can replace the TALON and SWORDS units. If you look at the pictures, SWORDS looks like a prototype, with stuff bolted onto a TALON track base, but MAARS looks like a finished product.

    They're all rather dumb teleoperators.

    Foster-Miller also makes the Big Dog legged robot for Boston Dynamics. That thing actually has some autonomy, using Boston Dynamics software.

  • It is now, of course, quite amusing to go back and read all the knee-jerk posts from the previous news stories. Makes more than a few of you look a bit stupid.

    EK
  • AFAIK, these machines are not robots, they're remote controlled. You car isn't a robot. If you install some means to control it from afar, it is still not a robot. Your Roobma is a robot. /still waiting for PACRATS

Economists state their GNP growth projections to the nearest tenth of a percentage point to prove they have a sense of humor. -- Edgar R. Fiedler

Working...