High-Tech Military – Rosie the Robot Joins the Army

Bill Smart is an assistant professor of computer science and engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. With his doctorate. student Doug Few, he is working on the next generation of military robotics. The US military has apparently set the year 2020 as a goal to have 30% of the military made up of robotic forces.

Neither the researchers nor the military are considering battle-ready “clone and drone” squadrons a la Star Wars or Isaac Asimov. On the contrary, explains Professor Smart, they speak of “autonomous trucks”, bomb sniffers and other support systems which are more precisely called “autonomous systems rather than robots”.

Rosie the Robot Maid A number of different technologies are converging in the design and development of robotic military systems. Night vision “eyes”, ultra-sensitive microphone “ears” and other sensors picking up sound, heat signatures and even odors are sent back to an operator in a remote location. With a computer, screen or two, and gamepad, the soldier in command has a high-tech scout, bomb squad, cargo transporter and intelligence collector all in one. .

When he thinks of “the future of robots,” says Ph.D. Few of the candidates, it is always the “Jetsons. George Jetson never sat down at a computer and tasked Rosie with cleaning the house. D ‘somehow they had this local exchange of information. So what we worked on was how local environment rather than a computer as a means of assigning tasks to the robot. “

The iRobot Corporation’s Packbot is a far cry from Rosie the Robot Maid in terms of intelligence and dexterity on board, but it is already in service in Afghanistan and Iraq, delivering equipment and transporting equipment over dangerous terrain. As technology continues to advance, more robots are being deployed earlier in situations considered, at least initially, too dangerous for humans. “When I stood there and looked [a battle-damaged Packbot], I realized that if this robot hadn’t been there, it would have been a kid. “Not many people say. Civilian applications The police force quickly into use any military technology they can get their hands on. In fact, the” militarization “of the American law enforcement, which has been gathering momentum since then. for at least several decades, has not been an unqualified success in the eyes of all.

In the summer of 2007, Radley Balko, editor-in-chief for Reason magazine, testified before the House Crime Subcommittee. “Since the late 1980s,” he told the assembly, “thanks to acts passed by the United States Congress, millions of surplus pieces of military equipment have been donated to local law enforcement agencies across the country. country. We’re not just talking about computers and offices. Military-grade semi-automatic weapons, armored personnel carriers, tanks, helicopters, airplanes and all manner of other equipment designed for use on the battlefield are now in use on American streets, against human beings. US citizens. “

Bomb robots, the technology of which has been field tested in many military hotspots around the world, have already made their way into many large urban police forces. As technology advances, Packbots and other special military robots will also join the local ranks of US law enforcement. “Academic criminologists,” Balko added, “attribute to these transfers the dramatic rise of paramilitary SWAT teams over the past quarter century.”

Private use proliferates The increase in SWAT raids can be seen as a good or a bad thing, depending on views on law enforcement, subsidiarity, civil rights and other political issues of the potato hot. However, the application of military-proven technologies, including robotics, for private purposes, such as security and self-defense, is much less controversial.

ActivMedia Robotics of Peterborough, NH, manufactures a number of “safety robots”. PatrolBot and similar mobile detection and surveillance systems function as backups to other stationary systems, while also providing additional data. In many cases, PatrolBot can deploy sensors that are either too infrequently used or too expensive to install in permanent locations around a facility.

Facility managers of a Hewlett-Packard server installation need a 3D heat map of the building space, for example. If they install temperature sensors throughout the building, it could interfere with the mobility of people, so PatrolBot carries a pole loaded with sensors to map the temperature in the facility at specified intervals. An additional advantage of robots, in these types of settings, is that they operate autonomously, make facility modernization unnecessary, and can handle various emergencies without putting people at risk.

On patrol in Roanoke, VA-based Cybermotion manufactures the Cyberguard line, originally introduced in the mid-1990s. Units can be fitted with a variety of sensors – environmental, infrared, thermal, and more. – and a set of cameras which relay the video in real time by radio or Wi-Fi to a central control location.

Operators can remotely control the camera’s pan, tilt and zoom functions and, for archival purposes, continuous or time-lapse video can be recorded to a hard drive in the robotic vehicle as well as at the checkpoint. Independently backed up copies will ensure that damage to the Cyberguard, whether intentional or accidental, will not destroy any evidence collected at this point.

The Jetson-era security bots with real-time video, color and other features are not “the wave of the future”, but are here and available now. Different types of these robots, while still being innovative new tools for large area security and other specialized military and police operations, are by no means considered a “fix everything” or “silver bullet”.

Ready for prime time? ActivMedia’s marketing materials position their growing family of “bots” as part of a “robust security solution”, enabling businesses and, increasingly, homeowners to improve their chances of managing with. success any “unexpected danger”. With the price of a standard PatrolBot dropping from $ 40,000 to just over half since 2002, more and more small businesses and large properties may consider budgeting for such devices.

Adding mobile video surveillance won’t guarantee an improvement in every security system, but in the right places, these robots can make all the difference. There is a serious cost-benefit analysis to be done before writing a check for any of these units, and there are continued running costs, certainly, of various parts that will wear out (wheels, gears, levers). , etc.), batteries that need to be charged, control equipment that will need redundancy and so on.

The Next Frontier For savvy businessmen, especially those with large physical factories and extensive perimeters, mobile surveillance cameras with some brains on board could be a wise investment. Others who are less savvy, but are yarn-dyed techies, may jump into a PackBot or Cyberguard purchase just because they’re the first to adopt – or want to see if they can control the robot with a iPhone or some other gadget. .

Now the military and its “favorite vendors” are working hard to arm the robots for battle. We are unlikely to see much of this new technology spreading into products for businesses and consumers, at least not soon. Project the trends over a few decades, however, and it’s not hard to imagine Rosie trading her maid’s apron for a badge and a gun. Rosie the robot cop? Careful, George!

Source by Scott McQuarrie

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