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Inside the DARPA-esque Singapore Military Bot Contest

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the running-into-walls-on-the-government's-dime dept.

Robotics 45

mattnyc99 writes "Earlier this summer we followed a war robot contest in England. But now, after the Russian onslaught in Georgia, this weekend's TechX Challenge in Singapore takes on a bigger meaning: can small countries keep up with military superpowers by upmodding existing robots for their own needs and then arming them? Researchers in the Far East seem to be struggling with their A.I. research right now, but this could just be the beginning of the 'little guys' fighting back. From the article: 'Chan says the agency wants to use more locally developed robots to help in homeland security and counterterrorist operations. The DSTA's goal is to improve robotic artificial intelligence so it can build machines to perform dangerous tasks — reconnaissance, surveillance and the handling of hazardous materials — that American robots already can. ... Back at Nanyang Technological University, Michael Lau acknowledges the urgency of the research but says the AI for urban warfare just isn't ready. "We don't really believe fully autonomous robots are possible yet," says the Evolution team supervisor. "How does a robot differentiate between friend and foe?"'" We've discussed similar projects from DARPA in the past. Reader coondoggie notes that enthusiasts will be able to participate in the lighter side of robot warfare next month in Texas.

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45 comments

eat my shorts slashdot !! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25082899)

Eat my shorts slashdot !!

Russian onslaught in Georgia? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25082905)

Georgian onslaught in Ossetia?

Re: Russian onslaught in Georgia? (1)

leprkhn (1344959) | more than 5 years ago | (#25085653)

i'm not sure why the parent was modded "funny". if i remember correctly... the "conflict" was initiated by georgia. yes?

In Other DARPA Words ... (1)

monxrtr (1105563) | more than 5 years ago | (#25082927)

Not Outside.

Re:In Other DARPA Words ... (4, Informative)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 5 years ago | (#25083129)

Actually, the Georgians were using robots- they were using UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) for reconnaissance. They did lose at least one to the Russians, but UAVS are inexpensive and importantly, the loss of the UAV does not result in the loss of the trained personnel that operate it. The Russians, on the other hand, didn't have any UAVs, and instead were using Tu-22 Backfire bombers for reconnaissance, which resulted in one of the planes being taken down by Georgian air defense.

I would argue that yes, robots, in the form of UAVs and UCAVs can help level the playing field. It all comes down to money. A MiG-29 Fulcrum might cost $25 million and a Su-27 Flanker costs $35 million. A Predator UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle) costs a mere $8 million and can be armed with laser-guided bombs, Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, and there are tests underway to outfit them with Stinger air-to-air missiles. Now, a Predator might not be as effective as a MiG-29 or a Su-27, but you can buy 3 or 4 for the same price, and take risks with them since you don't have to worry about losing the pilot. Keep in mind that training a pilot for a fighter or attack aircraft takes millions of dollars and years of time, so they are not easy to replace; and their capture creates all sorts of political headaches. A handful of Predator drones (or their equivalents) might not win a war, but it would force your enemy to reconsider their plans a bit. Of course, a U.S. F-22 costs $137 million, and the F-35 costs $83 million... so the leveling of the playing field affects the US as much, if not more, than the Russians.

As for ground-based robots, I doubt they would be very useful for a small nation like Georgia. Again, it comes down to money. Say a robot costs 1 million dollars. For that price you might be able to get 1,0000 M-16s or 5,000 AK-47s and hand them out to civilians to form a militia. Any one of them will be smarter, more mobile, more adaptible, and more stealthy than your robot. One gets shot, have the next pick up his rifle. If you're being invaded by your larger neighbor, there probably won't be a shortage of young, testosterone-fueled kids with more balls than brains who are willing to defend the homeland. One man suitably motivated by nationalism or religion, and willing to risk/sacrifice his life to take out his target, can take out millions of dollars worth of high-tech gadgetry, as we've seen in Iraq and Vietnam.

Re:In Other DARPA Words ... (1)

srussia (884021) | more than 5 years ago | (#25083417)

I would argue that yes, robots, in the form of UAVs and UCAVs can help level the playing field. It all comes down to money.

Actually, the United States already has such a weapon. It's called a printing press and it can shoot FRNs halfway around the world.

Re:In Other DARPA Words ... (0, Troll)

monxrtr (1105563) | more than 5 years ago | (#25083425)

Actually, the Georgians were using robots- they were using UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) for reconnaissance. They did lose at least one to the Russians, but UAVS are inexpensive and importantly, the loss of the UAV does not result in the loss of the trained personnel that operate it. The Russians, on the other hand, didn't have any UAVs, and instead were using Tu-22 Backfire bombers for reconnaissance, which resulted in one of the planes being taken down by Georgian air defense.

And they lost zero man hours, too? Are you Hereby declaring "intellectual property rights" on that bottle rocket that was just launched, and recovered by the enemy?

Who's the Fucking Iron Eagle, here? Sir, Doug Masters, Bitch Lieutenant, Sire.

It's obvious they both want to touch (how do you say from russian to german to american "touch my Wienerschnitzel.com") base.

Ooooh $35 "million". What was that, like the original FDIC $100,000 insurance limit, pre-inflation?

Keep in mind that training a pilot for a fighter or attack aircraft takes millions of dollars and years of time, so they are not easy to replace; and their capture creates all sorts of political headaches.

Tell that to "The British Versus the Zulus,", coming to a "i'm wearing red and you can't see me" theater near you. Are you saying mom and pop free market flight schools are financed by the church of scientology? How many bulls shall we sacrifice in compromise?

The Remote Control sends out little magic people to change the channel, and the inventors must therefore be forthwith, executed. :P

One man suitably motivated by nationalism or religion, and willing to risk/sacrifice his life to take out his target, can take out millions of dollars worth of high-tech gadgetry, as we've seen in Iraq and Vietnam.

Fuck that shit. Give me Liberty, or give Them Death. El correction, Senor.

One man suitably motivated by nationalism or religion, and willing to risk/sacrifice his life to take out his target, can take out millions of dollars worth of high-tech gadgetry, as we've seen in Iraq and Vietnam.

So you are saying Vietnam would beat Iran and Iraq in a war?

Re:In Other DARPA Words ... (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#25083635)

One man suitably motivated by nationalism or religion, and willing to risk/sacrifice his life to take out his target, can take out millions of dollars worth of high-tech gadgetry, as we've seen in Iraq and Vietnam.

Which is why it makes me angry when people in free societies tell everyone that those societies are to blame for all that is wrong with the world and all war is wrong.

Re:In Other DARPA Words ... (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#25085337)

"A Predator UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle) costs a mere $8 million"

Just wait for the far cheaper Chinese knock-offs :).

The Empire strikes again?! (1)

UnixUnix (1149659) | more than 5 years ago | (#25082939)

Have those developers already received overtures to run the robots on embedded Windows?

P.S. Free Xboxes for the development environment, wheeee

Re:The Empire strikes again?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25082973)

OK Fine. You Strike a Hard Bargain. You can also have a Certificate of Completion for the course. Along with the usual amenities.

Police enforcement is about to get a lot easier (1)

Chris Rhodes (1059906) | more than 5 years ago | (#25083009)

Cheaper and less dangerous, for the police. It may take ten years, but when do we see the first combat robot deployed in a 'peacekeeping' capacity?

Killer robots (1)

number11 (129686) | more than 5 years ago | (#25083043)

We need to make sure that someone can be held personally responsible for the actions of the killer robots. Political leaders, preferably, but realistically it's more likely to be line military personnel. Whatever. If the robot screws up and kills the wrong people, we need to hold its operators responsible for war crimes.

Re:Killer robots (1)

Nathrael (1251426) | more than 5 years ago | (#25083087)

As long as their programming isn't faulty, combat robots do not engage enemies until told so from their operator, which usually is a soldier - and this soldier usually is held responsible for "his" robots. At least in the US military, they did already make sure that someone pays for it if the robots screw up.

Re:Killer robots (3, Informative)

Acapulco (1289274) | more than 5 years ago | (#25083133)

Call me silly, but I think that's a colateral effect that's gotta be positive for the military guys. I mean, if nowadays you can get away with lots of stuff not permitted by military law, even when someone has to *actually* do whatever is illegal, imagine how easy its going to become later on.

Really, you can establish any number of rules and regulations to try to hold someone accountable if shit happens, but how many lawyers will be able to convice the jury that it was a "computer bug", something not forseen by the engineers, erc...I can even imagine some sleazy lawyer saying "CouldnÂt it be that this robot displayed a spark of volition and tried to defend itself? Are you willing to send someone to jail for murder one on behalf of some machine that, as far as we know, could have triggered the gun by itself?"

Re:Killer robots (1)

DanielLC (1346013) | more than 5 years ago | (#25085909)

Point a camera at the keyboard controlling the robot. If they can actually see you press the shoot button, you can't just say it was bug. Besides, even if they can't be convicted, you can still show they probably did it and sue them for wrongful death.

Re:Killer robots (1)

Oktober Sunset (838224) | more than 5 years ago | (#25086333)

lol, do you really think the USA, the country that said it would support a world court only if American soldiers were given immunity from prosecution, would collect and present such evidence of it's own people's actions?

Do you really expect a country that refused to apologise when one of it's warships entered another countries territorial waters then shot down a civilian airliner killing everyone on board, would provide evidence on it's own soldiers.

To be fair, there's probably not many countries that would, protecting their own no matter what crimes they commit is the MO of pretty much every police force and military in the world, and if they have a new excuse of 'the robot did it' they won't waste the opportunity.

The pattern we have always seen is new technology always leads to new ways to excuse the killing of civilians and other inhumane acts. If a man with a sword sticks it through an innocent kid, everyone would agree a war crime has been committed, if a man with a gun shoots the kid, some people will be willing to accept it's an accident, the kid was caught in the crossfire, stray bullet, if the man drops a bomb on the kid from a plane, it's just collateral damage, unavoidable, certainly not the pilots fault. If he does it from hundred of miles away with a robot, fuck knows, he'll probably get a medal or something.

Re:Killer robots (1)

DanielLC (1346013) | more than 5 years ago | (#25100169)

The pattern we have always seen is new technology always leads to new ways to excuse the killing of civilians and other inhumane acts. If a man with a sword sticks it through an innocent kid, everyone would agree a war crime has been committed, if a man with a gun shoots the kid, some people will be willing to accept it's an accident, the kid was caught in the crossfire, stray bullet, if the man drops a bomb on the kid from a plane, it's just collateral damage, unavoidable, certainly not the pilots fault. If he does it from hundred of miles away with a robot, fuck knows, he'll probably get a medal or something.

If someone sticks a sword through a kid, the people that find out about it would think it's a war crime. Considering the way information spread, or rather, didn't, when swords were common, that wasn't very many. Vastly more people currently consider killing anyone in a war a war-crime.

If a kid is caught in the crossfire, it is an accident. Nobody's going to target anyone but the enemy while under fire. Bombing civilians is a high-up decision, and is unrelated to a single soldier that goes on a killing-spree.

Whether the death is caused by the robot or the soldier, it's still caused by something from the US. Considering one can have safety features added, has no mind of its own, and is new and therefore scary, which killer would be more embarrassing? Besides, people would be a lot less likely to shoot if they knew they were going to get caught, so this is like 10 deaths from a soldier vs hundreds from robots.

Re:Killer robots (1)

unlametheweak (1102159) | more than 5 years ago | (#25083167)

We need to make sure that someone can be held personally responsible for the actions of the killer robots. Political leaders, preferably, but realistically it's more likely to be line military personnel.

The people who have the technology to build any type of advanced A.I. robots won't be subject to any war crimes. The winners in these types of military/political/economic battles never are.

No! (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#25083125)

I don't welcome any robot overlords. The Singularity is growing more real by the day.

Re:No! (1)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 5 years ago | (#25083343)

Yeah, those darn kids, arming their robots. What's next, they will become armed robots themselves and will destroy my lawn! Over my dead body kids!

Overly constrained (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 5 years ago | (#25083135)

"How does a robot differentiate between friend and foe?"

My, my, aren't we picky. Well, if you're really arming most kinds of robots, because they can't see they can't differentiate, thus it's not relevant to them.

Re:Overly constrained (1)

unlametheweak (1102159) | more than 5 years ago | (#25083241)

It doesn't really matter if they can see or not because all soldiers look pretty much alike (green in the countryside, brown in the desert, and white in the arctic). You basically just have to know which way to shoot.

Who's surprised? (1)

Alarindris (1253418) | more than 5 years ago | (#25083151)

It's (relatively) easy to create a robot that crawls over rocks and is able to avoid obstacles.

It's hard to build a robot to discern friend from foe.

Where's the news?

Onslaught in Georgia?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25083311)

Never mind that the Ossetians, who happen to have a country that they have continuously occupied since ancient times and that predates the ex-Soviet Union and Georgia, peacefully decided to reunify their ancient country in 2006. From one reference (of many you can find): "On Sunday 12 November 2006, South Ossetians... went to the polls to vote in a referendum regarding the region's independence from Georgia. The result was a "yes" to independence, with a turnout above 95% from those among the territory's 70,000 people who were eligible to vote at that time."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ossetia [wikipedia.org]

Never mind that Georgian military response under US training, direction and equipment, responded to this blatant use of Democracy to almost completely destroy the South Ossetian capital in an attempt to bend its people to its will. What is more telling that this went on during on next to ZERO mainstream US news. Why? Oh just keeping the racial cleansing quiet when its in US interest - we want to box in Russia, expand NATO (despite promising not to when the Berlin wall fell) etc.
http://www.google.com/search?q=Georgian+attack+Ossetia [google.com]

The Ossetians asked Russia to move and help as their city was quietly being leveled (men, women, children vaporized under US bombs) just like they did many centuries before when Turkey was trying to crush them.
The parent poster really needs to turn off their propaganda box, read some history and get their facts straight.

"Have you ever considered that we may be on the wrong side?"
Padmé Amidala, Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith

Re:Onslaught in Georgia?? (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 5 years ago | (#25083331)

And if Kansas decided it was going to secede from the United States, do you honestly think they would go a week without federal troops (from different states, don't make the "Tiananmen Square" mistake) walking the streets?

As I understand it, North Ossetia (part of Russia!) and South Ossetia were once one country. North Ossetia is technically part of Russia (as South Ossetia is technically part of Georgia). I wonder how things would have went if North Ossetia declared independence from Russia?

Oh, I'm sure Russia would have just let the North Ossetians have their land back.

Re:Onslaught in Georgia?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25085401)

I suppose the American Civil War was too long ago to use as an example.

Re:Onslaught in Georgia?? (1)

FriendlyLurker (50431) | more than 5 years ago | (#25085595)

Oh, I'm sure Russia would have just let the North Ossetians have their land back.

Parent poster has a point. You must of missed this old news: "Russian parliament votes to recognise independent Ossetia"
"The Russian parliament has voted unanimously to recognise Georgiaâ(TM)s breakaway regions as independent, in a move that will increase tensions with the US and other Western nations."
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/2618728/Georgia-conflict-Russian-parliament-votes-to-recognise-independent-Ossetia.html [telegraph.co.uk]

I did not see it reported in the US as well, but no surprise there. How can you demonize Russia if it votes to give the North AND South back to the Ossetians - rightful owners for thousands of years? Of course have to take the Russian Parliament vote with a large grain of salt - only the future will tell, BUT they did start pulling troops out almost the second after kicking out the Georgian invaders. All that crap about France brokering a deal and forcing Russia to withdraw was a load of laughable hogwash... Sarkozy's plane had hardly touched the ground, plus he had no leverage, where does French natural gas come from? but Moscow was already scaling out anyway. Talk about trying to save face for NATO.

Re:Onslaught in Georgia?? (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 5 years ago | (#25088931)

You'd have to be pretty nuts to think that Russia actually intends to let Ossetia keep the land.

It's definitely NOT about reuniting Ossetia. It's either about:

a) Screwing Georgia out of land
b) Be friendly with Ossetia for economical reasons (don't important pipelines go through Ossetia?)
c) Reunite them and then reintegrate it into Russia

Re:Onslaught in Georgia?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25083387)

Have no worries about that. CNN will pull Georgian dictator out of its pocket when it suits US propaganda and politics the most just like it pulled Saddam Hussein [wikipedia.org].
Have in mind that winners write history and history books too, so the wikipedia article may not be neutral just like parent's propaganda box.

Never mind, the readers of slashdot are mostly US an British citizens, how they could tell facts from propaganda anyway?

Nukes, anyone? (1)

Fumus (1258966) | more than 5 years ago | (#25083335)

Guess why every small country wants to get their hands on nuclear weapons? No one cares about these robots. Once you've got a nuke, you can threaten everyone that you'll use it, and you've got your independence. Of course the whole MAD thing keeps everyone from using nukes, so once you have a nuke, you can be a little more certain you won't get attacked.

No leveling of the playing field (1)

Cochonou (576531) | more than 5 years ago | (#25083363)

can small countries keep up with military superpowers by upmodding existing robots for their own needs and then arming them?

As always, I don't really see how they might. Have firearms leveled the playing field between superpowers and the others ? Superpowers will probably have the most effective, most scary, most immoral war robots, while the smaller countries will either buy sub-par export models from them or try to mod their roombas.

Re:No leveling of the playing field (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 5 years ago | (#25083573)

also, the headline is bullshit.

russia and georgia went into war with mostly the same old soviet armament (georgia even had some western made weaponry and some western upgrades for their jet bombers). also georgia had combat drones, while russia had to use old strategic bombers as reconnaissance aircraft.

still, after only two days georgians fled and left most of their weaponry (both soviet and western) behind.

Friend or Foe? (1)

mustafap (452510) | more than 5 years ago | (#25083371)

> "We don't really believe fully autonomous robots are possible yet," says the Evolution team supervisor. "How does a robot differentiate between friend and foe?"

Same way the USA does. That wont take much AI. How many lines of code are there in "shoot first, ask questions later?"

Re:Friend or Foe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25085941)

You are a moron if you have never seen the UAV/Apache videos.
The Apache pilots go through this thorough process of identifying the target, whether they have weapons or have been firing mortars.

Have you ever seen the flight control center of a UAV?

Just another dumb lib who doesn't understand warfare.
Go watch one of the Apache videos on the internet and watch haji powderized while firing mortars into the neighborhood, the proof and facts are out there visually for you to watch.

lines of code.... hahha go back to your hole and come back be

Re:Friend or Foe? (1)

MagdJTK (1275470) | more than 5 years ago | (#25086103)

You are a moron if you have never seen the UAV/Apache videos.
The Apache pilots go through this thorough process of identifying the target, whether they have weapons or have been firing mortars.

Sure, they check they have weapons. Not much good when they're shooting the hell out of friendly forces though, is it? Take a look at this link [youtube.com]. Of course it doesn't matter much when the US refuses to cooperate with the inquiry anyway.

firefox (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25083527)

let's use this helmet to control the weapons on a warplane but "you must think in Russian...think in Russian"

To answer the question... (1)

piemcfly (1232770) | more than 5 years ago | (#25083909)

can small countries keep up with military superpowers by upmodding existing robots for their own needs and then arming them?

no, they can't. Which is why Georgia got hammered, and every small country that isn't as dumb as Georgia, is going for good ol' unconventional warfare.

My friend is on it. (1)

louzer (1006689) | more than 5 years ago | (#25084473)

A good friend of mine is in the Temasek Polytechnic Robotics team. He is scared some psycho woman might try to might try to snipe him while he is working on it..

AI controlled kill-bots (1)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 5 years ago | (#25084615)

Yes what a brilliant idea, just imagine if lots of small countries had AI controlled kill bots, this would clearly help against the tanks and kill bots of their larger foes.

Seriously have we learned nothing from our education^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H movies? AI controlled kill bots have only one true enemy....

US.

Semi-seriously though, given the fragile state of AI and the issues we already have with soldiers making bad decisions is it really smart to start delegating the kill/not decision to robots?

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