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Robotics The Military Hardware

iRobot Demonstrates New Weaponized Robot 188

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-have-30-seconds-to-comply dept.
An anonymous reader writes "According to this IEEE story, iRobot and the US military have released video showing a weaponized version of iRobot's Warrior robot. In the video, the Warrior is seen firing a weapon system called the APOBS (Anti-Personnel Obstacle Breaching System), a grenade-filled line propelled by a rocket and stabilized by a drogue parachute. This system is used to clear minefields and obstructed roads. The video shows soldiers deploying a Warrior with the APOBS mounted on its back. The robot fires the device, which lands along a dirt road, exploding after a few seconds. A voice is then heard, 'Road clear; proceed forward.'"

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iRobot Demonstrates New Weaponized Robot

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  • Obvious questions... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TrisexualPuppy (976893) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @10:53AM (#32419346)
    How much does one unit cost, and is this actually scalable and affordable for nations where there are landmines? Most of these countries are third-world as the majority of landmines in first-world countries (e.g. Germany) was cleared years ago.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TrentTheThief (118302)

      It's probably not cost effective except for straight-line clearance operations (i.e., a road).

      You wouldn't want to try and clear several acres of field with this system as it would totally destroy the field. The purpose built systems are better suited for mine clearing. There's a continuing effort underway for mine clearing systems with an eye to small cost and high effectiveness and safety.

      • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @03:00PM (#32422896)

        There's a continuing effort underway for mine clearing systems with an eye to small cost and high effectiveness and safety.

        Well, use prisoners sentenced for execution and animals (30+ kg) tagged to be destroyed. Each prisoner is given as many animals as (s)he wants, and if (s)he steps on a mine, we'll put him/her down with a bullet to the head.

        If they manage to clear a set number (say 100 mines), they're free to go.

    • More Than Cows (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @11:02AM (#32419474) Homepage Journal

      These robots surely cost a lot more than running livestock across minefields to trigger the mines.

      • And it cooks your steaks at the same time!

        Don't mind the lead bits...

      • by iammani (1392285)
        Actually I wont be so sure. Cost of robot + cost of robot in terms of time/effort taken to transport (which is negligible) vs Cost of Cows (which is not negligible, if the the numbers of disposable cow required per unit time is high) + cost of cows in terms of time/effort required to transport (which is actually costly).

        Seems to be pretty close.
        • by blair1q (305137)

          Yeah, but if you don't need the cows to clear the mines, you can eat them or sell them or breed more cows.

          If you don't need an iRobot to clear the mines, you've got a toy the kids will get bored with in a couple of hours.

          • by pluther (647209)

            ...you've got a toy the kids will get bored with in a couple of hours.

            Are you nuts? This thing's got a built-in wire-guided, parachute-controlled explosive grenade launcher.

            It would take weeks for the kids to get tired of it!

        • Don't forget to factor in the cost of replacing all that cattle. Those cows aren't there as lawnmowers, they provide food product to a large number of people.
      • by McKing (1017)

        Driving a herd of cows up a road might be OK for clearing "dumb" land mines (although I would still think twice before walking there!), a herd of cattle is not so great for ensuring a lane is clear of command-detonated mines.

        You're not understanding how this works. The military has has mine-clearing systems like this for 100 years (first bangalores, then the MCLC "micklick"), but they required combat engineers to get up to the suspected minefield and deploy these while exposing themselves to enemy fire (or

    • by oztiks (921504)

      I wouldn't expect it too be too expensive, when it comes to the cost of UAV's it usually comes down to specific type of weaponry mounted on it which increases the cost.

      Things like missile fail-safes, ai based being more expensive and the very different forms of targeting and guidance systems out there, things like direct and top attack, etc ...

      This one seems pretty simple, shoot in a straight line and deploy a parachute.

      • by oztiks (921504)

        Sorry I meant to say UGV ... got my acronyms wrong :)

      • cheap plastic barrels + some water (to get enough weight) and roll them forward - if its down hill, even easier!
        the "robot" can be some form of remote control car that rolls a few at a time... that is if you want to be fancy about it.

    • They'll be cheap. They'll build them in China. Now what that means when we really have to do something about North Korea or Taiwan is another matter.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Lumpy (12016)

        And what do I do when they accident send one of these in my new roomba box....

        "honey, Why is the vacuum setting fire to the couch?"

    • How much does one unit cost, and is this actually scalable and affordable for nations where there are landmines? Most of these countries are third-world as the majority of landmines in first-world countries (e.g. Germany) was cleared years ago.

      I'm not sure I entirely agree with your statement. There are third world countries that are actually well off enough. They aren't super powers like the states or anything, but they are still better off than what you probably mean as a developing nation - or something along those lines. Before the tsunami, I would have considered places like Thailand to be pretty well off for being a third world country. And Germany, contrary to popular belief, was a second-world country.

      We need to come back to the history l

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Germany was first world, it is part of NATO. East Germany was second world. These terms were updated with the cold war.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by careysub (976506)

      How much does one unit cost, and is this actually scalable and affordable for nations where there are landmines? ...

      It is pretty clear that this device is intended to support ground attack by a first world army against an adversary like Iraq (or some other country beginning with "I"?).

      Think about its specs - it is a robotic device deploying an explosive system for instantly clearing a lane through a mine field. You need an instant lane if you launching a time-critical operation (i.e. an attack), and a robot to deploy it if you expect to get shot at - i.e. you are in combat.

      A minefield clearing system for a third world co

      • by couchslug (175151)

        "It is pretty clear that this device is intended to support ground attack by a first world army against an adversary like Iraq (or some other country beginning with "I"?)."

        There is also a small country next to China that is fond of raiding their neighbors as well as sinking ships now and then. Fighting them to a draw was bloody and expensive the last time.

        http://rokdrop.com/2008/12/30/dmz-flashpoints-the-blue-house-raid/ [rokdrop.com]

        NK not only must attack through some mine fields, but can deploy their own. In order to

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tibman (623933)

      This isn't used for clearing landmines. Just "Antipersonnel Obstacle"s... IE Concertina Wire or that crazy mesh stuff the Soviets use. If you want to clear landmines with a system like they showed.. the MICLIC is used insead: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M58_Mine_Clearing_Line_Charge [wikipedia.org]

    • by cyn1c77 (928549)

      How much does one unit cost, and is this actually scalable and affordable for nations where there are landmines? Most of these countries are third-world as the majority of landmines in first-world countries (e.g. Germany) was cleared years ago.

      Wha?

      This is for military combat operations. Like to clear a path for a lightly armored personnel carrier through a booby-trapped road in Afghanistan or Iraq.

      It's not to help third-world countries clear out old mines.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @10:54AM (#32419358) Homepage

    I think you better do as he says, Mr. Kinney.

  • by Brackney (257949) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @11:00AM (#32419442)

    This older story comes to mind whenever I see a new article about military robots.

    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2007/10/robot-cannon-ki/ [wired.com]

    • by B3ryllium (571199)

      That story is why I always beta-test my robotic weapons platforms with NERF and paintball weaponry first, before moving up to the beryllium-core laser rocket bullets.

  • I know that they were demonstrating a weapons system, but it just seemed like a really bad hollywood movie where they keep playing the same SFX explosion over and over again because they thought it was cool (plus they don't have any budget for doing something different and they need to fill some dead time)

    On the other hand what is really novel about this? They attached a weapons system to a robot and manually drove the robot to the optimum location to fire the weapon. Am I missing something or is this jus

    • On the other hand what is really novel about this?

      These are the folks that make your friendly little Roomba [irobot.com] ....

      (Goes upstairs, checks Roomba again, considers removing battery)

  • Well I for one welcome our new robotic overlords.

    Granted the inevitable human rebellion will have a surprisingly easy time fighting these things, I mean just hide up a sufficiently steep slope and the apparently top heavy ting will tumble over backwards. Alternatively you could just walk away at a reasonably brisk pace.

    And speaking of military robots, am I the only one who's creeped out by Big Dog [youtube.com]? Looks like some sort of unholy union between a deer and a spider..

    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @11:12AM (#32419634) Homepage

      And speaking of military robots, am I the only one who's creeped out by Big Dog? Looks like some sort of unholy union between a deer and a spider..

      You can call it unholy if you want, but there was magic in the air that night. Who are you to judge true love?

      • You can call it unholy if you want, but there was magic in the air that night. Who are you to judge true love?

        "The love that dare not speak it's name." Or, more like it, "The love that cannot speak it's name."

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      The robot fires the device, which lands along a dirt road, exploding after a few seconds. A voice is then heard, 'Road clear; proceed forward.'"

            That's fine, as long as RoboCop goes first.

    • Granted the inevitable human rebellion will have a surprisingly easy time fighting these things, I mean just hide up a sufficiently steep slope and the apparently top heavy ting will tumble over backwards.

      If it's as smart as the Roomba (from the same company) I can see a huge increase in popularity used couches in Afghanistan and Iraq. Maybe some fake stair cases or virtual walls [amazon.com]

  • by kmahan (80459) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @11:05AM (#32419532)

    This would be great for my roomba when it runs into a really big mess. Or for its obstacle route planning. Instead of turning to go around the obstacle it could just remove the obstacle.

    • This would probably be the only robot on the market being able to clean my room... Come to think of it, it might just be time to burn the place down and rebuild...
  • by hey (83763)

    I don't see why the robot is needed. A soldier could walk to where the known unmined area ends and fire this thingie.

    • Re:Manual (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @11:21AM (#32419788) Homepage

      Since they already have the weapon, but not the robot, I'm figuring they've tried the human-fired approach and found something wanting. I'm not certain, but seeing as how landmines are not exclusively used to deny territory to the enemy while nobody is watching it, but rather as an obstacle that slows and stops the enemy at conveniently chosen areas, and knowing some of the problems our soldiers have had over there... I'm guessing there's a good reason for robots, which can probably be summed up in two words:

      "Boom! Headshot!"

    • Re:Manual (Score:5, Insightful)

      by OhPlz (168413) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @11:32AM (#32419952)

      I don't see why the robot is needed. A soldier could walk to where the known unmined area ends and fire this thingie.

      Perhaps it's clearing the way for a horde of other robots carrying anti-personnel weaponry? The military of the future may not need to put lives on the front-lines. I think we're seeing a glimpse of that with the air drones that are taking out terrorists via rockets.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by javilon (99157)

        The military of the future may not need to put lives on the front-lines.

        And that is the problem. If nobody comes back home dead, and if the war are fought outside your territory (they are called liberation wars this days), then a war is just a headline on the news for the people on the country deploying the robots.

        That makes engaging in "liberation" wars a much more attractive position for your average politician, especially when you are inside an economic crisis and need some foreign enemy to control your population.

        Eventually wars will be a tech show where the country with th

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          We have already reached that point. Why do you think Iran wants nukes so bad? They saw what happens when you don't have them.

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        The military of the future may not need to put lives on the front-lines.

        There are a dozen different ways of delivering destruction in impersonal wholesale, via ships or missiles of one sort or another, catastrophes so widespread, so unselective that the war is over because that nation or planet has ceased to exist. What we do is entirely different. We make war as personal as a punch in the nose. We can be selective, applying precisely the required amount of pressure at the specified point at a designated time. We've never been told to go down and kill or capture all left-hande

      • The military of the future may not need to put lives on the front-lines. I think we're seeing a glimpse of that with the air drones that are taking out terrorists via rockets.

        Suspected terrorists.

        Until they're tried and convicted, they are suspected terrorists. Granted, there is probably not solid evidence to convict them (and it's expensive to capture and detain them) even if they do blow up girl-schools, which is why it's convenient to just label them terrorists and killing them. Just look at the FBI's in

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "A soldier could walk to where the known unmined area ends and fire this thingie."

      Some folks have been known to rudely interrupt mine clearing by shooting at those clearing the mines.

      Give them an iTarget instead of a trooper, that they may plink it and reveal themselves for some iPayback.

  • If you listen carefully, just before you hear the guy say "Road Clear" I'm pretty sure you can hear the robot say "Your move creep."
    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      and if you pull the string on its back again it says "yeeeha, take that", "boom-shanka, mon" and "I want a pony".

  • by MrEricSir (398214) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @11:17AM (#32419728) Homepage

    ...a device that runs around in circles shooting randomly.

    • I dunno... I'm going to be nicer to my Roomba, now that I know about his cousin in the Army.

      Though, seriously, I do love my Roomba, even though I've only had him a week. (I think it's a girl, actually, but my son wanted a boy.) How many consumer products come with a note saying "This device has an interface which we encourage you to hack around on until it's no longer recognizable as a vacuum cleaner"?

      The only problem is that he pulls to the right, and I don't know if that's by design or if he's got a p

  • Gee... (Score:4, Funny)

    by umask077 (122989) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @11:52AM (#32420242)

    So I was happy with my Roomba and Scoomba. Now they have home defense products too. Wow. Do I have to buy the whole robot or can I just get the weapon mounts for my vacuum?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by zorro-z (1423959)

      I can see it now...

      "From the people who brought you Roomba and Scooba... it's BOOMBA!"

    • by mrmeval (662166)

      I want them everywhere with my attorney and a judge with an authorization button on standby 24/7. No-Knock this assholes.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "Do I have to buy the whole robot or can I just get the weapon mounts for my vacuum?"

      Don't forget the "D & C" attachment, so you can have a Woomba.

  • Explosions are scary.

    I'm just happy my name isn't Sarah Connor.

  • by wonkavader (605434) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @12:25PM (#32420730)

    This is a remote controlled car with a ridiculous rocket launcher on it. It costs $100k.

    iRobot is making a mint sucking money out of the military and out of US taxpayers like me.

    You could do this with a $60 RC car from radio shack and a lot of duct tape -- just rig the firing button to the horn. Buy one with big wheels.

    For all the things we could be using actual robots for, this is pathetic, and a lot like a million-dollar fireworks show, circa Vietnam.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      This is a remote controlled car with a ridiculous rocket launcher on it. It costs $100k.

      Actually, it's a robot with a micro clusterbomb. But it's better than a cluster bomb because it's totally controllable, and it's a lot smaller and cheaper.

      You could do this with a $60 RC car from radio shack and a lot of duct tape -- just rig the firing button to the horn. Buy one with big wheels.

      You need more axes to control the weapon. You'd need at least a $500 RC car to have anything like reliability, and just one bullet hit would destroy it.

      For all the things we could be using actual robots for, this is pathetic, and a lot like a million-dollar fireworks show, circa Vietnam.

      It's a cool weapon, but not very exciting in terms of robot news. And by cool weapon I mean a great new way to kill people. Oh sure, it's for clearing roads, but it's for clearing roads so you can get to t

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PPH (736903)

      You could do this with a $60 RC car from radio shack and a lot of duct tape -- just rig the firing button to the horn. Buy one with big wheels.

      The insurgents could just run to Radio Shack, pick up their own remote and push the horn button at an inappropriate time.

      I suspect that the iRobot Warrior is a standard platform to which they can bolt any number of interesting gizmos. In time and with greater production volumes, the price will come down. Perhaps the generals will have one model built that can caddy their golf clubs for them.

    • Suppose you're in the army and you come across a minefield. Do you want to be the guy who carries that line grenade launcher to the front of the minefield, potentially step on a mine that's not where you expected, to stand out in the open for all to see and shoot at for however long it takes to prepare the weapon and fire it? The bad guys on the other side of the mines at looking right at you through their crosshairs. OR would you rather have a durable, bulletproof robot capable of doing that job as well as

      • Personally, I'd rather have a bunch of cheap RC cars with add ons than one (or less than one) $100,000 one.

        As for bulletproof RC cars, I'd rather have a fast little RC car that comes as a surprise than a slow clunky tracked thing which A. advertises more clearly where it came from (and thus where I am), B. gives the guys I'm trying to liquefy more time to get away, and C. might be bullet-proof up to a point, but there are always bigger weapons around.

        As for not doing it remotely, that's not my issue -- remo

  • by carp3_noct3m (1185697) <slashdot@noSPam.warriors-shade.net> on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @12:29PM (#32420810)

    Yay, lets invent something that we already have (mine line clearing device, aka MICLIC) and put it ona robot, so much better! How about the fucking old grey haired bastards that are too pussy to fix our current wars snap out of their cold war mindset and start investing in things more applicable to our current situation. Oh yeah, I'm a USMC Iraq vet.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      How about we just not engage in pointless wars?

      Seems a lot cheaper.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DaveV1.0 (203135)

      Oh really?

      The MICLIC system consists of an M353 3-1/2 ton or M200A1 2-1/2 ton trailer (or M200 tracked trailer) chassis, a launcher assembly, an M147 firing kit, an M58A3 line charge and a 5-inch MK22 Mod 4 rocket. The line charge is 350 feet long and contains 5 pounds per linear foot of composition C-4 explosive.

      I am sure you will want to set up that system to clear a road block, IED, etc. and risk taking fire.

      I would prefer to stay out of the line of fire and use a much smaller unit mounted on a robot tha

  • by Jim Hall (2985) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @12:31PM (#32420840) Homepage

    In WW2, soldiers used a device called a Bangalore Torpedo [wikipedia.org] or Bangalore Mine to clear obstacles - barbed wire, barriers, etc - without coming under fire. Basically, it was a long tube filled with TNT. Screw it together, push it along (from behind cover) and detonate to clear the area and make a safe path. We used them during the Normandy invasion, for example.

    This robot version is, really, just the next-generation version of the Bangalore. You deploy the robot (which might be under fire, but the operator is safely out of the way) to the barrier, launch an obstacle clearing system, and detonate to clear the area and make a safe path.

    • Interestingly enough, in the modern military a simple fly by and strafe run from any number of aircraft would accomplish the same goal, using already existing systems. Bonus, once the bird is in the area, she can provide close air support.
  • by slick7 (1703596)
    the only thing missing is SKYNET, but I'm sure that it's lurking around some corner or in some dark alley.
  • My cat was right (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PPH (736903) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @12:57PM (#32421218)
    It never did trust the Roomba.
  • Asimov (Score:2, Insightful)

    by feeble11 (1779624)
    I'm all for blowing sh*t up but there is some sad irony that a company named iRobot is developing a weaponized robot while the man who wrote "I, Robot" also wrote the three laws of robotics forbidding fictional robots from harming humans.
    • Re:Asimov (Score:4, Informative)

      by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @01:07PM (#32421356) Journal

      This robot is not designed to harm humans. It is designed to clear obstacles and explosives from the path of humans. Also, this is not an autonomous robot, but rather a misnamed remotely controlled vehicle that is 100% under the control of human. The three laws would never be applied to this device.

      • by blair1q (305137)

        The three laws would never be applied to this device.

        Tautology.

        Just to make things clear: the three laws will never be applied to any device intended to be used to win a war.

    • by blair1q (305137)

      Well, Asimov was a writer of (among many things) speculative fiction, not a megalomaniacal warmonger.

      The latter would not hesitate to deploy robots with no concept of humans other than as targets or debris.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      Asimov " wrote the three laws of robotics forbidding fictional robots from harming humans" did he?

      He also wrote books in which there was a unified theory of everything, allowing anything and everything to be mathematically proven. And don't forget the as-humans-as-humans robots.

      But that's OK. It's entertaining science fiction - key word, fiction. (I am glad you made note of that yourself.)

      In the real world, we have earthquakes which prevent city-domes; entropy preventing the prediction of everything; and hu

  • The idea to stress behind war-oriented robots is to stay away from "battlebots." [wired.com]

    built supercomputers and technologies to address the underlying causes of war, and attack those causes. poverty, famine, fear, education, etc...

    what we've done is created a 2 million dollar device that pulls the trigger...not very amazing at all.
  • Would one of those big ole tire unibikes with a remote control survive a few booms? I saw pics of them from Burning Man, maybe heavy enough to set off the charges but bouncy enough to stay alive?

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      Tires only detonate mines they run over. Even if you are willing to run the tires back and forth a number of time there is no way to be sure that every square inch has been covered.

      Explosives detonate mines in the area that they cause overpressure. They also break wire which would stop a small vehicle.

  • This brilliant plan will be foiled when the enemy buys a $99 add-on virtual wall and erects it in front of the minefield.

  • Could you take the '710, remove the guns, put a vacuum cleaner on it so that it can clean stairs? Not to many land mines in my house, but dust bunnies roam at will.
  • Just think of the effect this will have on the "professional" protesters in Berserkey, CA.

I have never seen anything fill up a vacuum so fast and still suck. -- Rob Pike, on X.

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