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Robotics The Military Technology

Inside the DARPA-esque Singapore Military Bot Contest 45

Posted by Soulskill
from the running-into-walls-on-the-government's-dime dept.
mattnyc99 writes "Earlier this summer we followed a war robot contest in England. But now, after the Russian onslaught in Georgia, this weekend's TechX Challenge in Singapore takes on a bigger meaning: can small countries keep up with military superpowers by upmodding existing robots for their own needs and then arming them? Researchers in the Far East seem to be struggling with their A.I. research right now, but this could just be the beginning of the 'little guys' fighting back. From the article: 'Chan says the agency wants to use more locally developed robots to help in homeland security and counterterrorist operations. The DSTA's goal is to improve robotic artificial intelligence so it can build machines to perform dangerous tasks — reconnaissance, surveillance and the handling of hazardous materials — that American robots already can. ... Back at Nanyang Technological University, Michael Lau acknowledges the urgency of the research but says the AI for urban warfare just isn't ready. "We don't really believe fully autonomous robots are possible yet," says the Evolution team supervisor. "How does a robot differentiate between friend and foe?"'" We've discussed similar projects from DARPA in the past. Reader coondoggie notes that enthusiasts will be able to participate in the lighter side of robot warfare next month in Texas.
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Inside the DARPA-esque Singapore Military Bot Contest

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 20, 2008 @02:10AM (#25082905)

    Georgian onslaught in Ossetia?

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      Yeah, but "big scary bear" is catchier to the press.

    • by leprkhn (1344959)
      i'm not sure why the parent was modded "funny". if i remember correctly... the "conflict" was initiated by georgia. yes?
    • by flyingsquid (813711) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @03:17AM (#25083129)
      Actually, the Georgians were using robots- they were using UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) for reconnaissance. They did lose at least one to the Russians, but UAVS are inexpensive and importantly, the loss of the UAV does not result in the loss of the trained personnel that operate it. The Russians, on the other hand, didn't have any UAVs, and instead were using Tu-22 Backfire bombers for reconnaissance, which resulted in one of the planes being taken down by Georgian air defense.

      I would argue that yes, robots, in the form of UAVs and UCAVs can help level the playing field. It all comes down to money. A MiG-29 Fulcrum might cost $25 million and a Su-27 Flanker costs $35 million. A Predator UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle) costs a mere $8 million and can be armed with laser-guided bombs, Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, and there are tests underway to outfit them with Stinger air-to-air missiles. Now, a Predator might not be as effective as a MiG-29 or a Su-27, but you can buy 3 or 4 for the same price, and take risks with them since you don't have to worry about losing the pilot. Keep in mind that training a pilot for a fighter or attack aircraft takes millions of dollars and years of time, so they are not easy to replace; and their capture creates all sorts of political headaches. A handful of Predator drones (or their equivalents) might not win a war, but it would force your enemy to reconsider their plans a bit. Of course, a U.S. F-22 costs $137 million, and the F-35 costs $83 million... so the leveling of the playing field affects the US as much, if not more, than the Russians.

      As for ground-based robots, I doubt they would be very useful for a small nation like Georgia. Again, it comes down to money. Say a robot costs 1 million dollars. For that price you might be able to get 1,0000 M-16s or 5,000 AK-47s and hand them out to civilians to form a militia. Any one of them will be smarter, more mobile, more adaptible, and more stealthy than your robot. One gets shot, have the next pick up his rifle. If you're being invaded by your larger neighbor, there probably won't be a shortage of young, testosterone-fueled kids with more balls than brains who are willing to defend the homeland. One man suitably motivated by nationalism or religion, and willing to risk/sacrifice his life to take out his target, can take out millions of dollars worth of high-tech gadgetry, as we've seen in Iraq and Vietnam.

      • by srussia (884021)

        I would argue that yes, robots, in the form of UAVs and UCAVs can help level the playing field. It all comes down to money.

        Actually, the United States already has such a weapon. It's called a printing press and it can shoot FRNs halfway around the world.

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by monxrtr (1105563)

        Actually, the Georgians were using robots- they were using UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) for reconnaissance. They did lose at least one to the Russians, but UAVS are inexpensive and importantly, the loss of the UAV does not result in the loss of the trained personnel that operate it. The Russians, on the other hand, didn't have any UAVs, and instead were using Tu-22 Backfire bombers for reconnaissance, which resulted in one of the planes being taken down by Georgian air defense.

        And they lost zero man hours, too? Are you Hereby declaring "intellectual property rights" on that bottle rocket that was just launched, and recovered by the enemy?

        Who's the Fucking Iron Eagle, here? Sir, Doug Masters, Bitch Lieutenant, Sire.

        It's obvious they both want to touch (how do you say from russian to german to american "touch my Wienerschnitzel.com") base.

        Ooooh $35 "million". What was that, like the original FDIC $100,000 insurance limit, pre-inflation?

        Keep in mind that training a pilot for a fighter or attack aircraft takes millions of dollars and years of time, so they are not easy to replace; and their capture creates all sorts of political headaches.

        Tell that to "The British Versus the Zulus,",

      • One man suitably motivated by nationalism or religion, and willing to risk/sacrifice his life to take out his target, can take out millions of dollars worth of high-tech gadgetry, as we've seen in Iraq and Vietnam.

        Which is why it makes me angry when people in free societies tell everyone that those societies are to blame for all that is wrong with the world and all war is wrong.

      • by TheLink (130905)
        "A Predator UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle) costs a mere $8 million"

        Just wait for the far cheaper Chinese knock-offs :).
  • Have those developers already received overtures to run the robots on embedded Windows?

    P.S. Free Xboxes for the development environment, wheeee

  • Astromech? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Barradrewda (1016610)
    These aren't the droids we're looking for. Move along. Move along.
  • Cheaper and less dangerous, for the police. It may take ten years, but when do we see the first combat robot deployed in a 'peacekeeping' capacity?
    • We need to make sure that someone can be held personally responsible for the actions of the killer robots. Political leaders, preferably, but realistically it's more likely to be line military personnel. Whatever. If the robot screws up and kills the wrong people, we need to hold its operators responsible for war crimes.

      • by Nathrael (1251426)
        As long as their programming isn't faulty, combat robots do not engage enemies until told so from their operator, which usually is a soldier - and this soldier usually is held responsible for "his" robots. At least in the US military, they did already make sure that someone pays for it if the robots screw up.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Acapulco (1289274)
        Call me silly, but I think that's a colateral effect that's gotta be positive for the military guys. I mean, if nowadays you can get away with lots of stuff not permitted by military law, even when someone has to *actually* do whatever is illegal, imagine how easy its going to become later on.

        Really, you can establish any number of rules and regulations to try to hold someone accountable if shit happens, but how many lawyers will be able to convice the jury that it was a "computer bug", something not forse
      • We need to make sure that someone can be held personally responsible for the actions of the killer robots. Political leaders, preferably, but realistically it's more likely to be line military personnel.

        The people who have the technology to build any type of advanced A.I. robots won't be subject to any war crimes. The winners in these types of military/political/economic battles never are.

  • by Tablizer (95088)

    I don't welcome any robot overlords. The Singularity is growing more real by the day.

    • by Yetihehe (971185)
      Yeah, those darn kids, arming their robots. What's next, they will become armed robots themselves and will destroy my lawn! Over my dead body kids!
  • "How does a robot differentiate between friend and foe?"

    My, my, aren't we picky. Well, if you're really arming most kinds of robots, because they can't see they can't differentiate, thus it's not relevant to them.

    • It doesn't really matter if they can see or not because all soldiers look pretty much alike (green in the countryside, brown in the desert, and white in the arctic). You basically just have to know which way to shoot.

  • It's (relatively) easy to create a robot that crawls over rocks and is able to avoid obstacles.

    It's hard to build a robot to discern friend from foe.

    Where's the news?
  • Guess why every small country wants to get their hands on nuclear weapons? No one cares about these robots. Once you've got a nuke, you can threaten everyone that you'll use it, and you've got your independence. Of course the whole MAD thing keeps everyone from using nukes, so once you have a nuke, you can be a little more certain you won't get attacked.
  • can small countries keep up with military superpowers by upmodding existing robots for their own needs and then arming them?

    As always, I don't really see how they might. Have firearms leveled the playing field between superpowers and the others ? Superpowers will probably have the most effective, most scary, most immoral war robots, while the smaller countries will either buy sub-par export models from them or try to mod their roombas.
    • also, the headline is bullshit.

      russia and georgia went into war with mostly the same old soviet armament (georgia even had some western made weaponry and some western upgrades for their jet bombers). also georgia had combat drones, while russia had to use old strategic bombers as reconnaissance aircraft.

      still, after only two days georgians fled and left most of their weaponry (both soviet and western) behind.

  • > "We don't really believe fully autonomous robots are possible yet," says the Evolution team supervisor. "How does a robot differentiate between friend and foe?"

    Same way the USA does. That wont take much AI. How many lines of code are there in "shoot first, ask questions later?"

  • can small countries keep up with military superpowers by upmodding existing robots for their own needs and then arming them?

    no, they can't. Which is why Georgia got hammered, and every small country that isn't as dumb as Georgia, is going for good ol' unconventional warfare.

  • A good friend of mine is in the Temasek Polytechnic Robotics team. He is scared some psycho woman might try to might try to snipe him while he is working on it..
  • Yes what a brilliant idea, just imagine if lots of small countries had AI controlled kill bots, this would clearly help against the tanks and kill bots of their larger foes.

    Seriously have we learned nothing from our education^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H movies? AI controlled kill bots have only one true enemy....

    US.

    Semi-seriously though, given the fragile state of AI and the issues we already have with soldiers making bad decisions is it really smart to start delegating the kill/not decision to robots?

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