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Robotics Technology

Packs of Robots Will Hunt Down Uncooperative Humans 395

Ostracus writes "The latest request from the Pentagon jars the senses. At least, it did mine. They are looking for contractors to 'develop a software/hardware suite that would enable a multi-robot team, together with a human operator, to search for and detect a non-cooperative human subject. The main research task will involve determining the movements of the robot team through the environment to maximize the opportunity to find the subject ... Typical robots for this type of activity are expected to weigh less than 100 Kg and the team would have three to five robots.'" To be fair, they plan to use the Multi-Robot Pursuit System for less nefarious-sounding purposes as well. They note that the robots would "have potential commercialization within search and rescue, fire fighting, reconnaissance, and automated biological, chemical and radiation sensing with mobile platforms."
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Packs of Robots Will Hunt Down Uncooperative Humans

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  • robots.txt (Score:5, Funny)

    by sveard ( 1076275 ) * on Friday October 24, 2008 @07:59PM (#25505117) Homepage

    User-agent: *
    Disallow: /

    • by Forty Two Tenfold ( 1134125 ) on Friday October 24, 2008 @08:27PM (#25505373)

      I think we really need these now:
            1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
            2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
            3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
      — I. Asimov

      • by ip_fired ( 730445 ) on Friday October 24, 2008 @08:43PM (#25505521) Homepage

        Those laws never worked though. All of his stories were about how they failed in spectacular ways and the process of finding out why they went wrong.

        Those laws also require an AI that doesn't exist. Maybe never will.

        • Those laws never worked though. All of his stories were about how they failed in spectacular ways and the process of finding out why they went wrong.

          Well, that's all the empirical proof I need.

        • by Devout_IPUite ( 1284636 ) on Friday October 24, 2008 @09:04PM (#25505685)

          Well, I think the first major problem was that law 1 is provably contradictable. That's no good... I mean, you give a robot a rule they ALWAYS have to follow but which has various examples where it can't... That's called bad programming.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by arotenbe ( 1203922 )

            I mean, you give a robot a rule they ALWAYS have to follow but which has various examples where it can't... That's called bad programming.

            Actually, that's called impossible programming. Except for a few academic-use-only languages, programming doesn't involve giving a computer rules, but giving it instructions. If you told a robot to map out the possible search space of actions and choose one that doesn't violate some rules, then not only would its actions be random, but it would be really, really slow.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by symbolset ( 646467 )
          The three laws are a thought experiment. Sort of like Brain-in-a-pan and multipersonal pantheistic solipsism. What makes them relevant is the depth that its author has explored the potential issues in fiction, and persistence against an increasingly stochastic culture.
      • by Devout_IPUite ( 1284636 ) on Friday October 24, 2008 @09:01PM (#25505653)

        I hope you're planning on giving up the death penalty, inaction during genocide, cigarettes, alcohol, and cars when the robots obey rule 1 by acting like a babysitter and taking away all the guns, lethal injection equipment, tobacco plants, hops, and cars to keep us from harm.

        Well damn, that was a poorly thought out rule...

        • I'm not sure a robot would evaluate a gun as a threat if it is in a dormant state. There are also situations where taking a weapon away from a human would be in direct violation of rule 1.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward


            While you nerds are arguing about Asimov the military is putting this into place. When the shooting starts nobody's going to come to you for help; you'd only start posting to slashdot about whether or not you could charge a robot with murder. Meanwhile the real bodies are piling up.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              This is why I have many guns.

              • by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Friday October 24, 2008 @09:32PM (#25505913)

                I would never use a gun to shoot an animal or human for any reason.

                But a robot-- there is no hesitation if it came to that. Indeed, one good potshot at an Intel robot deserves a full clip. AMD, I'm not so sure.

                • by Irish_Samurai ( 224931 ) on Friday October 24, 2008 @10:11PM (#25506167)

                  Off topic.

                  I used to feel the exact same way about shooting a human or an animal. I don't need to hunt to eat and I have no desire to take a human life. I shoot competitively, but that's always for a score against paper targets. I figure if I own a gun I should be good with it. A competent user is a safe user and all that...

                  But then I had an interesting event happen - I got charged by a boar.

                  I occasionally go hunting with my father in law to take photographs. I always figured "hey I'm learning how to hunt if I ever need it, I just don't have to shoot anything." Quite often my father in law would stalk a deer and let it go, he got off on just doing it. Plus, he ate everything he ever did shoot. He's old school southern ex-military.

                  After one evening of watching an inactive plot, we called no joy and decided to head back to camp. After about five minutes of walking this boar comes crashing out of some brush right at us. I just drew and discharged my whole magazine. I was scared absolutely shitless. All the competition training and practice went out the fucking window. I'm surprised I even managed to draw. Hell, I'm not sure I'm the one who even killed it.

                  After I quit crying, and trust me I did, my father in law laughed and said "well, you may not be a hunter, but you're definitely no pacifist." He bundled up the boar and we continued to camp.

                  I agonized over this event for weeks. I had taken life (or so I assumed) and was none to happy about it, yet I didn't feel it was unjustified - just horrible. I kept running through thought experiments concerning the difference between the ideal I tried to hold myself to and the actions I had taken in light of a real world scenario. Was I a hypocrite? Was it my fault for being there? If I didn't actually own a weapon would these feeling even exist?

                  Maybe it is just a cop out, but I eventually came to the conclusion that my actions were justified. I also became acutely aware that I had a very different attitude towards having to use my weapon for self defense. Before I never kept it loaded in the gun safe. Now I have a touch sensitive gun case next to the bed, and the gun is loaded.

                  I also purchased a second weapon, realizing the limitations of the one I had when it came to home defense.

                  I'm not saying that everyone should own a gun, or that others wouldn't stick to their guns (pun intended) and not use such a tool against an animal or human. I'm just saying that never is a tricky word.

                  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @12:03AM (#25506751) Homepage

                    I also purchased a second weapon, realizing the limitations of the one I had when it came to home defense.

                    Yeah, man. When those wild boars start coming down the chimney you gotta be ready.

                  • by Shatrat ( 855151 ) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @01:45AM (#25507275)
                    I will never understand this sort of thing.
                    Unless you're a vegetarian, it's a complete cop-out not to be able to kill an animal.
                    I mean, I couldn't kill a cat or a dog, and I might kill a person who killed a cat or a dog, but I wouldn't lose sleep over killing anything I ate.
                    The only thing I still hunt is dove. I don't particularly like deer, or squirrel, and people get pissed when you shoot their hogs.

                    If on the other hand you ARE a vegetarian, I may eat you myself.
                    I realize that I'm not particularly eloquent, but Anthony Bourdain has covered this subject much better than I could on his show 'No Reservations' a few times.
                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  I would never use a gun to shoot an animal or human for any reason.

                  That state of mind is what makes people easy victims.

                  I don't respect too much people that don't consider themselves worthy of using force to preserve their life or liberty.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Artifakt ( 700173 )

          When Jack Williamson wrote "With Folded Hands", his 'humanoids' took away all freedom to do anything risky. supposedly for people's own good. Try to go mountain climbing, and they make you stay inside, but offer a nice game of chess. A little observation of what the humanoids say shows they were trying to implement Asimov's laws, and the whole story is about just the point you raise. It's a pity that not nearly as many people have read Williamson as Asimov.

      • Perhaps you hadn't noticed but law enforcement, military, and other forced based branches of government are rather fond of things that can hurt non-compliant humans. [google.com]
    • by carlzum ( 832868 )
      You better hurry, Google has already cached the location of my hideout.
    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by MoFoQ ( 584566 )

      User-agent: *
      Disallow: /robots.txt

      the self-fulfilling contradiction!

  • by s0litaire ( 1205168 ) * on Friday October 24, 2008 @08:01PM (#25505119)
    Co-Funded by the I.R.S.
  • by pipingguy ( 566974 ) * on Friday October 24, 2008 @08:03PM (#25505143)
    [Mr. Kinney points a pistol at ED-209]
    ED-209: [menacingly] Please put down your weapon. You have 20 seconds to comply.
    Dick Jones: I think you better do as he says, Mr. Kinney.
    [Mr. Kinney drops the pistol on the floor]
    Dick Jones: [ED-209 advances, growling]
    ED-209: You now have 15 seconds to comply.
    [Mr. Kinney turns to Dick Jones, who looks nervous]
    ED-209: You are in direct violation of Penal Code 1.13, Section 9.
    [Entire room of people in full panic trying to stay out of the line of fire, especially Mr. Kinney]
    ED-209: You have 5 seconds to comply.
    Kinney: Help me!
    ED-209: Four... three... two... one... I am now authorized to use physical force!
    [ED-209 opens fire and shreds Mr. Kinney]
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by philspear ( 1142299 )

      Not really a quote so much as most of the dialogue from the "Robocop" screenplay.

    • He threw down his gun instead of dropping it. ED-209 got confused. ED-209 should have been programmed to notice the gun is no longer in the suspect's hand and is on the ground.

      But if someone was controlling ED-209 via a video game interface it would be a different story. Also ED-209 should have used rubber bullets instead of real bullets to take in the suspect alive instead of dead.

  • Mechanical Hound (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MiKM ( 752717 ) on Friday October 24, 2008 @08:06PM (#25505185)
    This is eerily reminiscent of the "mechanical hound" from Fahrenheit 451
  • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Friday October 24, 2008 @08:10PM (#25505213)

    .... can I just shoot them if they try to hunt me down? What about a nice EMP blast? And will they be armed? Or will they behave more like searchers from the Chronicles of Riddick?

    I'm really not sure if I'm looking forward to that. Either they won't be armed, and they'll be easily disabled, or they will be, and then.... Meh.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      .... can I just shoot them if they try to hunt me down? What about a nice EMP blast? And will they be armed? Or will they behave more like searchers from the Chronicles of Riddick?

      I'm really not sure if I'm looking forward to that. Either they won't be armed, and they'll be easily disabled, or they will be, and then.... Meh.

      The fun thing about EMP blasts are that, you know, the easiest way to make them is by detonating a nuclear weapon in the air [fas.org]. If you consider that "easily disabled", remind me to not get on your shitlist :)

      • Or you can just use this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KcD3KQ38CM. Not quite as mindblowing, but a bit more targeted. :)

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 24, 2008 @08:23PM (#25505341)
      No, you cannot.

      I have it on the authority of a friend that when a police dog comes out of nowhere and leaps on you and you instinctively knock it away, it PISSES THE COPS OFF and the tend to beat the crap out of you. I'm pretty sure you would get a similar reaction from them if you scratch their shiny new toy. Remember, most law enforcement considers this a battle between US and THEM, and they will include these robots in their definition of US.
      • by Anachragnome ( 1008495 ) on Friday October 24, 2008 @09:12PM (#25505775)

        I can attest to that myself.

        It DOES piss them off (especially if your knocking it away with Vibram-soled, steel toe boots), but they don't necessarily beat the crap out of you. They just let the now-very-pissed-off dog chew on you for awhile. That way there are no marks from THEM to indicate excessive force.

        The problem here is that the DOG does NOT have to announce himself as a police officer (like I'm gunna see a badge, on the collar, in the dark). That allows the officer to apply force without clearly announcing that you are dealing with someone that your not allowed to DEFEND yourself from. When it happened to me, I had already kicked the dog 4-5 times and been chewed on for 10-15 seconds by the time I had ANY idea there was a cop in the area.

        Personally, I think robots would just remove the normal hesitation that most people experience when confronted with the decision of killing someone else. In other words, get rid of that pesky conscience.

      • by carlzum ( 832868 )
        I'd hope robots are treated as equipment rather than animals. From the Wikipedia article on police dogs [wikipedia.org]:

        Depending on jurisdiction, the perpetrator may be charged the same as if a human officer were injured or killed.[citation needed] A growing number of forces outfit dogs with bulletproof vests (and some even go so far as to give the dogs their own police badges and IDs). Furthermore, a police dog killed in the line of duty is traditionally given a full police funeral/burial just as they would for a human o

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

        In California, you also get a felony rap for defending yourself against that police dog (the law reads something like "for injuring it, attempting to injure it, or interfering with it in the pursuit of its duty"), even if you did absolutely NOTHING else wrong and there is absolutely NO evidence that you did. This law isn't about protecting police dogs; it's about making sure anyone can be converted into a perp, just by siccing the dog on the desired person, and waiting for the victim to hit the dog ("attemp

    • You could shoot or EMP them, but you'll be brought up for a DMCA violation, and that calls out the lawyers.

    • "I'm really not sure if I'm looking forward to that. Either they won't be armed, and they'll be easily disabled, or they will be, and then.... Meh."

      Armament and resistance to damage are completely different qualities.

      "What about a nice EMP blast?"

      What about automobile airbag charges propelling water-based paint?

      Blind the optics and the machine is useless. In situations such as protests the action would be non-violent and not ruin the spendy machine at possible great cost to those caught disabling it.


  • by Xaositecte ( 897197 ) on Friday October 24, 2008 @08:10PM (#25505217) Journal

    I, for one, Welcome our new Robotic Overlords.

  • by Adrian Lopez ( 2615 ) on Friday October 24, 2008 @08:11PM (#25505229) Homepage

    Having robots deal with uncooperative subjects could ultimately help keep police safer, but unfortunately it creates a major imbalance of power. The use of robots in this manner could become a real problem in the hands of governments that wish to strike down on protestors and others who engage in peaceful civil disobedience. The prospects are truly frightening, although I suppose in the end protestors will figure out a way to build an army of unarmed, uncooperative robots to take the place of unarmed, uncooperative citizens.

    • by weld ( 4477 ) on Friday October 24, 2008 @08:38PM (#25505467)

      The technology trend is for government to afford it and then within 10 years typically upper class citizens can afford it, and then within 20 years middle class citizens can afford it. This means soon we will have wealthy people or well funded criminals battling these robots with their own robot armys. This is going to get crazy.

      Will countermeasures become illegal? Can I EMP these suckers?

    • although I suppose in the end protestors will figure out a way to build an army of unarmed, uncooperative robots to take the place of unarmed, uncooperative citizens.

      This is not a zero-sum game. Only large organized crime syndicates would have the ability to do as you say.

      Ordinary citizens would not have the ability to defend themselves against this if the government began using them for suppression of free speech.

      These robots should not be developed. And if they must be developed they should be illegal t

      • I have to disagree with you a bit on the ability for humans to defend themselves against robots of this type. Building a robot that could deal with stairs, leaps across large gaps, and still be able to maintain pursuit speeds would probably be weak against simple things like judo.

        Airborne robots would probably run out of steam after they exhausted their disabling payloads.

        Track using robots aren't very good at detaining a human, but they excel at recon.

        The human form allows us to overcome these limitations

    • Would damaging a police robot count as assaulting a police officer, or damaging government property?

  • Wasn't something like this on TV some time ago. They had several bomb disposal robots chassis reconfigured with several different sets of cameras (infra-red, wide-angle, zoom lens, rear-view), and a mounting point for a rifle with zoom optics.

    Previous slashdotters had suggested that the best defence would be to tip the robots over, build some ground-traps or hide in a river.

  • by Lost Penguin ( 636359 ) on Friday October 24, 2008 @08:17PM (#25505279) Homepage
    Come with me if you want to live.
  • by Narnie ( 1349029 ) on Friday October 24, 2008 @08:20PM (#25505305)
    On the way home I need:
    - toothpaste
    - beer
    - cereal
    - aluminum foil (for tin hat)

    Once home:
    - google "conspiracy theories"
    - google "howto electromagnetic pulse"
    - google "group robot porn"
  • by VE3OGG ( 1034632 ) <VE3OGG@rac . c a> on Friday October 24, 2008 @08:32PM (#25505415)

    So often I have heard the internet meme that American soldiers (or soldiers of a western "civilized" country would not turn their weapons on their own people. Indeed, it is hard enough for them to do so to an Iraqi whom they still perceive as "human". However through indoctrination, and a process of dehumanizing the enemy, many Iraqis have died. Well, what happens if the next stage in de-humanizing comes not from propaghanda (which is not infalliable) but from a physical disconnect from targets.

    Think about it... It is much easier for a sharp shooter to take out a target at a thousand yards then it is for someone to execute someone at point-blank. It is much easier for a remote drone to drop a bomb than a fighter-pilot to do so.

    It is much easier for a robot controlled by a human operator to fire on civilians than an armed soldier, even if the civilian is a thousand yards away....

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Cruciform ( 42896 )

      It's not that hard to get soldiers to turn on their own populace. Remember Kent State?

      The National Guard isn't even full time army, and they've killed unarmed citizens.

      You don't even need to dehumanize the enemy. You simply have to remove the responsibility of the individual and you'll find enough soldiers willing to put bullets in whomever you choose.

  • by dacut ( 243842 ) on Friday October 24, 2008 @08:34PM (#25505425)
    What if the uncooperative human is the one *controlling* the robots?
  • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Friday October 24, 2008 @08:41PM (#25505497)

    Oh, right. Could they manage to fuel the robots off of metabolized human flesh? Oh, and make their heads look like skulls.

  • by FlyByPC ( 841016 ) on Friday October 24, 2008 @08:45PM (#25505537) Homepage
    ...EX-TER-MI-NATE!!! [wikipedia.org]
  • compliance (Score:2, Funny)

    by mrbobjoe ( 830606 )
    But what if I comply? I was told I had ten seconds to comply!
  • by Anachragnome ( 1008495 ) on Friday October 24, 2008 @08:57PM (#25505625)

    Oh, please.

    My daughter was just a few minutes ago telling me about a friends husband. He had signed on to the Army as a photographer AND as a conscientious objector. After being sent to Iraq a couple weeks ago, he is a mess. He is now a guard in a military prison, I suspect, with orders that do not sit well with him. The military knows nothing of "intended purpose". If it can be used to kill, it will be.

    Maybe the military understands that if they can take the PERSONAL out of killing, it will be easier for people like the man I just described to go out and KILL.

    And before you say it, I realize the man had unrealistic expectations. Ahh, the folly of youth. Isn't it a wonderful thing?

  • In response to those who tagged this story 'mechanicalhound', let me note that in modern Britain, people no longer hunt foxes, dogs hunt people: British foxhunting ban leads to human quarry [ft.com]

    As they pet the hounds, allowing the animals to memorise their scent, the master huntsman Clive Richardson offers a few words of encouragement. "Don't worry," he says. "When a limb's torn from you, it really doesn't bleed that much."

    I wish I had a scanner so I could post the print photo. It's a runner in modern gear spr

  • So this is where Skynet started at

  • So now let me put in a couple requests at my local gun shop... EMP grenades and scramble grenades. And yes, my contact at UNATCO is still good for it.
  • Everybody is so busy hating on their big-brother government that they can't possibly see any legitimate use for a group of robots that would hunt down a human.

    What, then, I might ask, is the purpose of a SWAT team? And why must SWAT officers die saving innocent hostages, thwarting bank robberies, and so forth, when we could use robots instead?

  • by harves ( 122617 ) on Friday October 24, 2008 @09:39PM (#25505943)

    In my experience, "non-cooperative" is simply used to describe "a person who doesn't want to be found". It is a technical term used to distinguish "search and rescue" scenarios (where the subject of the search is cooperative and will be lighting flares and such) from "search and destroy" or "search and intercept" scenarios. Different search patterns would be used in the different scenarios.

    It probably does NOT mean "hunting down a person who didn't answer a (police|military) officer's question". It is simply a technical term used in the research community to distinguish robotic search scenarios.

    • Imagine...somebody providing some sort of sane response to this. I wanted to say the same thing...just didn't imagine anyone would listen.
  • Let's build them as bipedals with a lightweight frame, like a bird. And on the end of each foot will be an eight inch curved steel claw.

  • Currently, dogs are used for this purpose, and they do it rather well. Some millions of years of design have gone into it. Getting a robot to move in complex terrain would be a bitch of a job. I can see that you can armor a robot more easily than a dog, so it would be more useful in flat terrain that has sniper positions. Are these robots primarily for use in Republican voting territory?

    I once saw a documentary on how clever hunting spiders were. Given the small brain size, they might be a useful model. You
  • And then ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) * on Friday October 24, 2008 @09:43PM (#25505975)

    Packs of Robots Will Hunt Down Uncooperative Humans

    Packs of uncooperative humans will hunt down robots and steal their batteries.

  • I see that it has the "skynet" tag...but what about the "whatcouldpossiblygowrong" tag?

    nevermind...looks like someone added.

    strange thing too...I was watching T3 (bluray) just a few hours ago.

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.