Click to viewThe U.S. military is being taken over by robots. Clearing buildings, recovering unexploded munitions and searching for bombs are some of the deadliest tasks a soldier can face in Iraq, and most of them can be done by robots. Plus, the Pentagon has plans to introduce even more robotic troops into military ranks in the coming decade. But will there be a human finger on the button, or are we talking about fully-autonomous weapons systems?
Today's military robots don't walk on two legs or look remotely human - they mostly look like miniature radio-controlled tanks. There's always a human somewhere with a laptop and a joystick controlling all of the robot's action. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are experimenting with the use of a controller from a Nintendo Wii to manipulate the bots. This gives the soldiers more freedom of movement and situational awareness than if they're staring into a laptop computer. While advances in robot technology will probably result in more radical robot designs and allow for the military's goal of a 30-percent robotic force, there will always be human involvement in the control process. Researcher Bill Smart had this to say about our future robot army:
"It's a chain of command thing. You don't want to give autonomy to a weapons delivery system. You don't want the robot to make the wrong decision."
Image by: Getty Images.
Military use of robots increases. [Washington University in St. Louis via EurekAlert]