Dec 12 2008

ROMP = fun, WROMP = danger


ROMP–or Remotely Operated Mobile Platform–is a poor man’s version of an iRobot battlefield bot. Instead of fancy tracks and miniaturised sensors, these ROMPs seem more like sophisticated all-terrain RC cars rigged with consumer cameras. Until you meet the older brother, of course, the weaponised WROMP with its big gun on top. In the words of its creator, Chris Rogers:

[The WROMP] is a weaponised version of the Remotely Operated Mobile Platform. The operator can “drive” the vehicle and fire the weapon although it is out of visual range. WROMP can also be used for reconnaissance and bomb investigation and remote detonation

As you can see, the weapon in this case is just a paintball machine gun. Enough for me, although Chris says the platform has been designed for any use, “including remote surveillance, security patrolling and bomb investigation.” The system uses an audio/video system linked to an VR headset for control, aiming, and firing.

Nov 14 2008

OzBot from Australia uses remote haptics


A UNIQUE robot that can deliver sensory information to Australian soldiers as they use the machine to inspect suspicious or dangerous objects from a distance could be on the front line within two years.

The 25-kilogram robot, developed at Deakin University in Geelong over the past two years, was one of four new technologies on display at the Defence Science and Technology Organisation industry open day yesterday.

Unlike other robots, the OzBot uses haptic technology, which allows users to “feel” objects being inspected by the robot despite being up to 500 metres away at the control box.

Information such as weight, texture and pressure of objects can be assessed in real time by the operators as if they are using their own hands to inspect an object.

Saeid Nahavandi, director of Deakin’s Centre for Intelligent Systems Research, said the OzBot would allow soldiers to glean much more information in war zones and make more informed decisions about whether to detonate an object or defuse it for intelligence gathering.

“If you blow the bomb up then you will lose a lot of forensic information, but if you defuse it, you can gather up all sorts of information such as the source of materials used to make it,” Professor Nahavandi said.

He said the OzBot could also be used to remove hazardous materials and had the potential to be used in battlefield surgery.

The robot, which has already completed some Defence Department testing, could be on the battlefront within two years.


Nov 13 2008

DARPA: Self-repairing, learning kill-robot tech is go


Once again the observant techbeat watcher finds his or her lower-torso garments endampened by fear, as news emerges that heavyweight US military nerds believe that they have developed IT tech which can “regenerate” autonomously, allowing it to self-repair in the face of shutdown attempts – and even to learn and develop its capabilities. More terrifyingly still, plans are afoot to put this technology into the US forces’ next generation of robotic weaponry.
Armed Robotic Vehicle, Assault, Light (ARV-A-L). You don’t want to meet ARV-A Heavy.

Attempting to flee in your puny conveyance is useless, humans!

Bow before your self-regenerating software overlords!

The “Self-Regerating Systems” SRS auto-programming programme is the brainchild of the renowned Pentagon barmy-boffin bureau, DARPA, where they never saw a self-aware computer network hellbent on the extirpation of humanity they didn’t like. SRS has been underway for since 2004 at the Information Processing Techniques Office. According to DARPA:

The SRS program is to develop technology for building military computing systems that provide critical functionality at all times, in spite of damage caused by unintentional errors or attacks … The SRS program aims to develop technologies enabling military systems to learn, regenerate themselves, and automatically improve their ability to deliver critical services. If successful, self-regenerative systems will show a positive trend in reliability, actually exceeding initial operating capability and approaching a theoretical optimal performance level over long time intervals.

So far, so blah. Just because DARPA wants the moon on a stick doesn’t for a moment mean it’ll actually get it. The mere fact that the US Army is also planning to field a deadly robotic legion featuring heavily armed droid tanks, kill-choppers, hovering spy probes, man-sniffer sensors and so on shouldn’t worry us. The SRS tech will probably never work, and if it did there’s no way it could get control of the heavily armed bot horde.

Except that yesterday DARPA banged out this announcement (pdf), in which it says:

DARPA is requesting information from vendors who have developer’s access to high value, hard real time, mission critical, military information systems … The goal … is to explore the technical feasibility of dramatically improving system survivability and reliability with technology and techniques that DARPA has recently developed under the Self Regenerative Systems (SRS) program.

In other words, the SRS programme’s unshutdownable, self-repairing awareware is ready to go, and traitorous DARPA boffins (doubtless the robots are holding their families) want to put it into things being built now. The horribly beweaponed robot kill-choppers and crewless tanks of the Future Combat Systems force, for instance, or the new “Predator” missile-packing unmanned hunter-killer planes which need no human piloting even by remote.

We’ll just have to pray that rival US military brainboxes – even now toiling on humanity’s trump card in the future war against the machines, the circuitry-toasting electropulse bomb – can be ready first.

via The Register