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Robotics The Internet

The Inside Story of the Armed Robot Pullout Rumor 105

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.""
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The Inside Story of the Armed Robot Pullout Rumor

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  • by Ethan Allison ( 904983 ) <> on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @07:40PM (#23097708) Homepage
    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?
  • Of course (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @07:50PM (#23097818)
    This is not the first time the American robotic army has attacked its own troops... []
  • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @08:02PM (#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 AHumbleOpinion ( 546848 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @08:30PM (#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.
  • by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @11:27PM (#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?


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