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Aussie Army Trains With Fleet of Robots On Segways

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the skynet-trains-on-aussie-army dept.

Australia 109

kkleiner writes "The armed forces of the world have already begun to hunt down and shoot robots. No, it's not the beginning of the man-machine war; it's a state-of-the-art training simulation that's very cool to watch. Australia-based Marathon Robotics has taken Segways and turned them into human-shaped autonomous robots capable of moving around streets and buildings just like people in a crowd! The Marathon bots can act like insurgents, hostages, or civilians, letting armed soldiers practice before being exposed to the real thing. The Australian Department of Defense already has a training camp using the robots, and the US Marine Corps will be establishing one this year."

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109 comments

I for one welcome... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31823592)

...eh...nevermind

Life imitating (recent) art... (3, Interesting)

sznupi (719324) | about 4 years ago | (#31823626)

If only they made some of those robots similar to Serge Graystone; or perhaps, more appropriately, to few targetbots we've seen in the pilot.

Re:Life imitating (recent) art... (1)

frosty_tsm (933163) | about 4 years ago | (#31823834)

If only they made some of those robots similar to Serge Graystone; or perhaps, more appropriately, to few targetbots we've seen in the pilot.

Pilot? If I recall, they've shown up in later episodes as well.

Re:Life imitating (recent) art... (1)

MakinBacon (1476701) | about 4 years ago | (#31827212)

If only they made some of those robots similar to Serge Graystone; or perhaps, more appropriately, to few targetbots we've seen in the pilot.

Pilot? If I recall, they've shown up in later episodes as well.

Just Serge. In the pilot, the Cylon was shooting at similar robots in some sort of testing chamber.

Re:Life imitating (recent) art... (2, Funny)

grcumb (781340) | about 4 years ago | (#31824996)

If only they made some of those robots similar to Serge Graystone; or perhaps, more appropriately, to few targetbots we've seen in the pilot.

I'm waiting for the robotic kangaroos with Stinger missiles [snopes.com]:

Eager to demonstrate their flying skills for some visiting American pilots, the hotshot Aussies "buzzed" the virtual kangaroos in low flight during a simulation. The kangaroos scattered, as predicted, and the Americans nodded appreciatively . . . and then did a double-take as the kangaroos reappeared from behind a hill and launched a barrage of stinger missiles at the hapless helicopter.

Re:Life imitating (recent) art... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31829480)

My brother was involved in that project.

When I asked him about Kangaroos with stinger missiles, he replied with the classic "I could tell you, but I'd have to kill you", with a grin on his face that tells me it was real.

Years later he told me it was actually that they'd just changed the skins on the soldiers to kangaroos for the demo, and forgot to turn off the weapons function.
They actually fired beach balls with stinger missile stats, someone had been playing silly buggers at some point in the build.

Re:Life imitating (recent) art... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31829222)

Did they run out of niggers? Cheaper, don't have any other use and you don't feel guilty plugging them.

All I know is... (1)

stakovahflow (1660677) | about 4 years ago | (#31823642)

All I know is that I've got to A) Get a Segway & B) Get my Segway armour-plated & C) Get a life, as thinking Segways are cool is lame...

--Stak

Ridiculous (-1, Troll)

commport1 (1530901) | about 4 years ago | (#31823700)

How utterly ridiculous. Grown men wasting tax payer $ to play real life video games. It just goes to show you how much money can be wasted on 'defense' spending, and no one bats an eyelid.

Re:Ridiculous (5, Informative)

Gravatron (716477) | about 4 years ago | (#31823798)

Actually, the videos showed them using it as sniper training. In real life, the targets move around, scatter when shots break out, etc. You can't simulate that with paper targets, and shooting at real people during training generates a lot of paperwork.

Re:Ridiculous (2, Funny)

c++0xFF (1758032) | about 4 years ago | (#31824020)

... and shooting at real people during training generates a lot of paperwork.

Only if you miss.

Re:Ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31824292)

If you watch until the end, it shows exactly that: scatter after shots

Re:Ridiculous (1)

quenda (644621) | about 4 years ago | (#31826854)

and shooting at real people during training generates a lot of paperwork.

Only if you keep a video of the training, and some fool with a conscience leaks it.

Re:Ridiculous (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31823888)

There is a world of difference between holding a rifle in your hand in the field vs a computer sim.

Re:Ridiculous (4, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 4 years ago | (#31823916)

Hmmm. How would YOU train soldiers? There were no segways, no robots back in my day. Or, more accurately, the few robots we had were capable of very limited functions, like loading a missile onto a missile launcher.

As already mentioned, blowing holes in paper targets is exactly that, a hole in a paper. Papers don't move, except a few rather complicated setups which move the target in one linear direction, or the reverse. Those robots can move in at least two dimensions, at varying speeds, and probably in 3 dimensions if ramps are built for them. Pretty good training, really. And as Gravatron has already pointed out, shooting at people can ruin people's days.

Let's just hope they aren't paying the price of an Apache helicopter for these robots.

Re:Ridiculous (2, Funny)

Eth1csGrad1ent (1175557) | about 4 years ago | (#31825068)

Let's just hope they aren't paying the price of an Apache helicopter for these robots.

Its the Australian Army. The only thing they're going to spend the "price of an Apache helicopter" on is an actual Apache helicopter - and even then, that'd be *one* Apache helicopter, and one only.

Re:Ridiculous (2, Informative)

deniable (76198) | about 4 years ago | (#31825546)

Not to dispute your point, but we're buying Tiger's. Not sure what we'll do with them. They'll probably hang around here and never deploy, just like the Leopards.

Re:Ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31828636)

Not to dispute your point, but we're buying Tiger's. Not sure what we'll do with them. They'll probably hang around here and never deploy, just like the Leopards.

they should have upgraded to snow leopard...

Re:Ridiculous (2, Funny)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about 4 years ago | (#31829076)

Not to dispute your point, but we're buying Tiger's

You are buying Tiger's what? Old golf clubs? Whores?

Re:Ridiculous (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 4 years ago | (#31825986)

The funny thing is we came back with an extra helicopter after Vietnam thanks to a couple of crashed and written off US Iroquois and some mechanics with a lot of spare time.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

CrashandDie (1114135) | about 4 years ago | (#31826190)

It scares me when someone from a military force says they came back from any war saying they had "a lot of spare time".

Re:Ridiculous (2, Informative)

dbIII (701233) | about 4 years ago | (#31827024)

Spike Milligan's mostly serious WWII memoirs sum that up fairly well. A lot of waiting about and brief bursts of action appears to be the norm in most conflicts.

Re:Ridiculous (2, Insightful)

iamhassi (659463) | about 4 years ago | (#31824000)

"Grown men wasting tax payer $ to play real life video games. It just goes to show you how much money can be wasted on 'defense' spending, and no one bats an eyelid."

And what is your suggestion to train for realistic scenarios? Dolphins with frickin' laser beams?

Re:Ridiculous (2, Insightful)

c6gunner (950153) | about 4 years ago | (#31824898)

How utterly ridiculous. Grown men wasting tax payer $ to play real life video games.

Jealousy is an ugly thing ....

Wait... What? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | about 4 years ago | (#31823704)

Marathon bots can act like insurgents

And you don't think this is dangerous? Perhaps the insurgents you are programming are not like the insurgents we encounter.

Re:Wait... What? (5, Funny)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 4 years ago | (#31824598)

I think insurgents in real life can climb stairs. I hope that doesn't come as a nasty shock to some Aussie soldier in the future...

Resourceful... and comical (5, Insightful)

bughunter (10093) | about 4 years ago | (#31823712)

Few can command respect by being simultaneously resourceful and comical. Aussies seem to accomplish this feat regularly.

Hats off, mates! Seriously, as an engineer, I think this is awesome.

It's somehow Pythonesque, but I can't put my finger on it.

Re:Resourceful... and comical (4, Funny)

mjwx (966435) | about 4 years ago | (#31825212)

Few can command respect by being simultaneously resourceful and comical. Aussies seem to accomplish this feat regularly.

We are also training killer Wombats [abc.net.au] and Koala drop bears.

Fear your beer swilling, redneck English, southern hemisphere overloads and our homicidal marsupials.

Re:Resourceful... and comical (1)

anarche (1525323) | about 4 years ago | (#31825854)

We are also training killer Wombats [abc.net.au] and Koala drop bears.

dude. on a serious note, lets try and do what we can to protect the drop bears.

Those suicidal little bastards need all the help we can give 'em to survive.

Re:Resourceful... and comical (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 4 years ago | (#31826160)

Americans probably have trouble imagining what a wombat really is so I'll describe it:
Imagine a bag of pre-mixed concrete with fur. Add claws designed to make it dig like a backhoe and you have a wombat.

Re:Resourceful... and comical (1)

mjwx (966435) | about 4 years ago | (#31826322)

Americans probably have trouble imagining what a wombat really is so I'll describe it:
Imagine a bag of pre-mixed concrete with fur. Add claws designed to make it dig like a backhoe and you have a wombat.

There was a picture of one of the vicious beasts in the article I linked to.

Next thing you'll be describing the deadly Australian Land Shark, which can follow you 90 Kilometres on shore.

Re:Resourceful... and comical (2, Informative)

dbIII (701233) | about 4 years ago | (#31826992)

True, but I'd seen dozens of photos of wombats before I saw a real ones and got that impression. Trying to stop a fairly young Wombat from going where it wanted to go was like stopping a minature bulldozer :)

Getting better. (-1, Troll)

delire (809063) | about 4 years ago | (#31823744)

Practicing 'defense' produces a desire to prove it. The next step to that end is the creation of conflict itself.

Chicken, meet egg. See you both in hell.

Politics aside (3, Informative)

pwnies (1034518) | about 4 years ago | (#31823804)

I would pay cash to be able to play this.

Re:Politics aside (3, Insightful)

Droideka-TheGuy (1482159) | about 4 years ago | (#31823974)

It's called paintball.

Re:Politics aside (2, Interesting)

ShooterNeo (555040) | about 4 years ago | (#31824900)

Not NEARLY the same. In this, you're firing live rounds! A recoil, a powerful bang, real bullets go through cover, etc. Could even come up with a sport where it would be a lone man on the course with a real gun versus a team of people controlling the robots. Kinda a Rambo challenge, where if a robot manages to shoot the lone player with a paintball the robot wins.

insane terrorists? (1)

roman_mir (125474) | about 4 years ago | (#31823814)

These robots do not look like terrorists, they are more like either insane terrorists or a bunch of idiot pervy wankers, however, I say give them guns to shoot back and put bombs on some of them dammit, otherwise what kind of real life simulation is that?

Overly complicated and expensive (3, Insightful)

riker1384 (735780) | about 4 years ago | (#31823824)

Why couldn't they have rigged up some cheap 4-wheeled robots to carry targets around? Then there would be no need for the expensive Segway balancing mechanisms.

Re:Overly complicated and expensive (4, Informative)

je ne sais quoi (987177) | about 4 years ago | (#31825116)

If you watch the video, they mention that the Segways lurch forward a bit when accelerating in a way that is similar to the posture of a human running. Also, I suspect that the stability that 4 wheels gives a platform is far too unrealistic to mimic humans well: If you ever read up on the physics of walking on two legs, you'll find that humans tend to lurch and sway a lot in a somewhat similar way to the segways.

Re:Overly complicated and expensive (1)

riker1384 (735780) | about 4 years ago | (#31827240)

So add one hinge and motor, and tilt the target back and forth if you want. That's still a lot simpler than the Segway's gyros and all that crap.

Re:Overly complicated and expensive (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | about 4 years ago | (#31827362)

Because then instead of simply buying a segway and stripping it down to the essential parts, you are rigging up a completely new and untested platform, and needing to built it yourself. The segway's "gyros and all that crap" are indeed complicated, but somebody else already did that part for you...

Re:Overly complicated and expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31828150)

you are rigging up a completely new and untested platform, and needing to built it yourself.

Yes, because there aren't any existing platforms in scooters/wheelchairs/atvs/toys?

Re:Overly complicated and expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31827928)

So you can't build a hinge into a 4-wheeled or tracked robot?
Bottom half stays stationary, top half can lean in any direction. In fact, it sounds better than a segway because it can lean left and right.

Not to be obvious (1)

Wrexs0ul (515885) | about 4 years ago | (#31823830)

But when they want "unprecedented levels of realism" in a training scenario against real people, why not use real people? Outside of the odd practice with live ammo it doesn't like there's even good reason to simply invent a better non-lethal training weapon. It's probably cheaper and suffers none of a robot's shortcomings with terrain... ...like, say, Daleks and their pre-2009 arch nemesis: stairs.

Unless there's a reason where you wouldn't simply want more soldiers/police/etc. practicing as the other faction?

-Matt

Re:Not to be obvious (4, Informative)

icegreentea (974342) | about 4 years ago | (#31824232)

The robots are for sniping practice. For long range shooting, nothing comes close to the actual thing. You really don't want to put real people out on the range.

I mean sure, they COULD just send their snipers off big game hunting, but that might not play so well.

Re:Not to be obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31826850)

COULD? They have, and do. Usually to get rid of pests such as goats etc...

Re:Not to be obvious (2, Interesting)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 4 years ago | (#31828282)

"I mean sure, they COULD just send their snipers off big game hunting, but that might not play so well."

They have been doing that since WW1. The recent shooting of 6000 terrorist camels [guardian.co.uk] hardly raised an eyebrow over here.

Re:Not to be obvious (1)

Ksevio (865461) | about 4 years ago | (#31824578)

With this system, they can have one person controlling a whole fleet of robots. And by controlling, I mean he presses start on the computer. That's quite an advantage over having 20 people that you're not even allowed to shoot at.

Re:Not to be obvious (1, Troll)

c6gunner (950153) | about 4 years ago | (#31824958)

But when they want "unprecedented levels of realism" in a training scenario against real people, why not use real people?

I like your enthusiasm, but most civvies get upset at the idea of being used as live-fire targets. They won't even let us use the prisoners from Gitmo!

Outside of the odd practice with live ammo it doesn't like there's even good reason to simply invent a better non-lethal training weapon.

Ah, I see the confusion. You didn't actually RTFA. No big surprise.

These robots are intended specifically for live-fire training. For everything else, we certainly DO use real people.

Re:Not to be obvious (0, Offtopic)

Eudial (590661) | about 4 years ago | (#31825230)

Daleks were seen hovering as early as 1985 in Revelation of the Daleks, but I guess that's digressing.

Re:Not to be obvious (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 years ago | (#31826498)

I recall an incident at an Australian military base recently where some guy shot at a friend assuming that he was firing blanks, and discovered one ohnosecond later that he was firing live rounds. On that occasion blank rounds were banned completely so that the users could assume that any ammo is live ammo. Its safer that way. Even safer to never fire at a human, unless you mean too.

Re:Not to be obvious (1)

indiechild (541156) | about 4 years ago | (#31828164)

This lets you practice with live ammo. While you could use blanks and MILES-type systems and get decent results, nothing really beats firing off a real bullet.

Australian Department of What? (1)

GumphMaster (772693) | about 4 years ago | (#31823904)

It's Australian Department of Defence you insensitive clods.

Re:Australian Department of What? (2, Informative)

Phrogman (80473) | about 4 years ago | (#31824498)

Give the US its due. Many of its citizens have learned to speak the Queen's English with fairly good results, its just on the spelling front that they apparently have problems. Sadly, up here in Canada a lot of people are adopting the US spellings it seems. I presume this is due to so many spell checkers defaulting to the mangled US spellings for words (if they offer the correct spelling as an option at all).

Re:Australian Department of What? (1)

quenda (644621) | about 4 years ago | (#31827016)

Fair suck of the saveloy - even we Aussies get confused on that one.
A lot of email gets lost/delayed because they refuse to register @defense.gov.au and redirect it.

Re:Australian Department of What? (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 4 years ago | (#31828258)

Can a 3rd party register defense.gov.au? What are the controls and restrictions to registering it?

A further benefit (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31823910)

When you have spent a year or so shooting 100+ robots dressed up in various ways and moving in various patterns, it's not that different shooting a couple of insurgents. Almost like robots.

Re:A further benefit (1)

conspirator57 (1123519) | about 4 years ago | (#31826152)

per Shooter, the movie

q: what's the first thing you feel after you shoot a civilian?
a: the recoil of your rifle.

desensitization and social acceptance.

it's also the reason space operas are more popular than other military sci-fi and naval / aerial battles are more popular than infantry: it's more clinical. things go boom cleanly and you can avoid confronting the facts of death.

i'm not saying that snipers are inherently evil or that it isn't a necessary function, but i'd rather not encourage the development of sociopathic behavior any more than the actuality of the job does on its ow
n.

if one misses the 'target' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31823954)

just wait, it will probably tip over damaging the robot. segway? will it ever end?

Simulate people? (1)

porky_pig_jr (129948) | about 4 years ago | (#31824176)

I thought aussies are fighting with cane toads and camels.

Re:Simulate people? (2, Informative)

anarche (1525323) | about 4 years ago | (#31825876)

nah, we've given up on both those fronts and figured we might stand a chance of an actual victory if we stick in afghanistan

Re:Simulate people? (1)

wordsnyc (956034) | about 4 years ago | (#31828160)

Yeah, because that's worked so well for everyone since (and including) Alexander the Great. Nobody wins in Afghanistan.

Re:Simulate people? (2, Funny)

Jeremi (14640) | about 4 years ago | (#31827662)

I thought aussies are fighting with cane toads and camels.

Indeed they are. Once trained, an Aussie sniper can reliably strike a target with a high-velocity cane toad from up to 2000 meters away. Camels, on the other hand, are too large to fire from a rifle, and require the use of motorized artillery.

I don't understand (1)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | about 4 years ago | (#31824278)

Why don't they just dress up some kangaroos in camouflage and turn'em loose? It'd be a lot cheaper and after the wargames they could have "roo on the barbie".

Re:I don't understand (2, Funny)

deniable (76198) | about 4 years ago | (#31825882)

Have you ever tried to dress a live 'roo? The bastards will beat you up, then start with all four sets of claws.

Re:I don't understand (1)

CrashandDie (1114135) | about 4 years ago | (#31826246)

Interesting first-hand account. I'd love to hear your excuse as to why you were dressing up a 'roo.

Re:I don't understand (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31826642)

I was lonely and the 'roo was a cutie...

This is amazing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31824468)

The guy in the video was running KDE 3.x! And one can assume that

(skip to 3:48)

Cool, but subtly lfawed (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 4 years ago | (#31824910)

There's a subtle flaw in the design of this 'simulator' however - no simulated opponents or hostages on the second floors or on the roof.

Too much money (-1, Troll)

Cinnaman (954100) | about 4 years ago | (#31826248)

These people have too much taxpayer money. Let's divert their funding into something useful and ignore the army whinging about having limited bullets for training exercises like we ignore legitimate complaints about a lack of funding in vital areas.
I know people who are fans of the American military-industrial complex's products will hold the exact opposite opinion about how all those taxes that are levied on Australians should be divided up.

Game (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31826402)

Is this what the Duke Nukem Forever team have been working on?

I, for one (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31827106)

...welcome our Segway-riding robot overlords.

Pro Cleanse (1)

heardyes (1788734) | about 4 years ago | (#31827576)

Physically, it is not difficult and I found the PT lessons and field exercises, while very informative, to be easy and even comical at times. Ultimately, the marches you'll do at your unit and on operations will be more difficult. Pro Cleanse [articlesbase.com]

New Kind Of War (1)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | about 4 years ago | (#31827980)

They're just scoping out their opponents and their traditional mode of transport. The Australian Government is preparing to fight a war against Google on two fronts - the internet filter and a hunting trip to Mountain View.

This is just getting far too far out there. (1)

dogzdik (1700552) | about 4 years ago | (#31828118)

Pretty soon we will be taking robo-combat 101 classes., on how to shoot hardened cyborgs running at 200 miles an hour with their own laser target designators and proximity fused 20mm cannons...

.

Hundreds of them....

need for Aussie wikipedia now clear (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31828810)

If Aussie's are going to keep coming up with ideas like this it is somewhat clearer why we might need our own tech wikipedia.

When will they shoot back? (1)

jlar (584848) | about 4 years ago | (#31829022)

I was just wondering when the robots will start shooting back. Will it be 2015, 2020 or 2030? Maybe we should have a slashdot poll on that. And should we call the computers controlling these robots for Skynet or would that infringe on known trademarks?

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