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Carnegie Mellon Gets $14.4M to Build Robo-Tank

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the watch-robo-cop-for-cues-on-what-not-to-do dept.

The Military 213

coondoggie passed us a NetworkWorld article, this one discussing new developments in the state of robotic warfare. Carnegie Melon is now hard at work on a tank set to join its brother, the already much-discussed Unmanned Areal Vehicle, on the modern battlefield "Ultimately unmanned ground vehicles would be outfitted with anti-tank or anti-aircraft missiles and anti-personnel weapons to make them lethal. Part of the new award budget is also slated to help the university prove that autonomous ground vehicles are feasible in future combat situations."

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213 comments

Is this what is called pork ? (1)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549075)

I'm asking a serious question. I've never understood what is and what isn't pork.

Re:Is this what is called pork ? (1)

andy666 (666062) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549123)

I think if the politicians from Pittsburgh campaigned for it, it is pork. If some professors at CMU are good buddies with the people that award these contracts, it's not pork. Maybe 'swine' would be a better term for contracts awarded through academic cronyism.

I find it hard to believe that CMU is going to do a better job building a robot tank than industry. Did the academics develop the predator ? No.

Re:Is this what is called pork ? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549225)

True, but they did build Sandstorm and H1ghlander [redteamracing.org] .
And, they [tartanracing.org] just won the Urban Grand Challenge recently (mentioned in TFA), so it's safe to say this is up their alley.

Re:Is this what is called pork ? (2)

klingens (147173) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549297)

Autonomous ground vehicles aren't ready for deployment yet. UAVs barely are, and they have an almost obstacle free 3D space to maneuver in, with decades of autopilot usage in almost all commercial planes to get experience how to do it and how not to.

Since it won't be actually used but only for research, asking questions like "Can it be done?" "How effective is it?" "What can we gain by doing this?" "What are the disadvantages?", one doesn't want industry to do it. Industry is best when doing mass building of the thing to actually deploy them in combat, a setting where the industry can see a way to make a profit from the project by applying what they learnt with the prototype. This in contrast is basic science where the outcome will provide, hopefully, valuable clues how to design these things in the end, but not a design that will be actually used for anything. Basic science is fine to have on universities, tho I agree with you that they should do it like the DARPA urban challenge instead of the old traditional DARPA model, unless they think it must be done more secretly for national security reasons.

Re:Is this what is called pork ? (1)

innerweb (721995) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549391)

Robotic warriors don't bother me. Its those cloners that bother me. Robots are not able to respond and be creative in the way cloners can. Thats why the cloner army destroyed the CIS so fast.

[/humor]

InnerWeb

Saturday night, I'm gonna go get laid. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549127)

A few years ago, while browsing around the library downtown, I
had to take a piss. As I entered the john a big beautiful all-American
football hero type, about twenty-five, came out of one of the booths.
I stood at the urinal looking at him out of the corner of my eye as he
washed his hands. He didn't once look at me. He was "straight" and
married - and in any case I was sure I wouldn't have a chance with
him.

As soon as he left I darted into the booth he'd vacated,
hoping there might be a lingering smell of shit and even a seat still
warm from his sturdy young ass. I found not only the smell but the
shit itself. He'd forgotten to flush. And what a treasure he had left
behind. Three or four beautiful specimens floated in the bowl. It
apparently had been a fairly dry, constipated shit, for all were fat,
stiff, and ruggedly textured. The real prize was a great feast of turd
- a nine inch gastrointestinal triumph as thick as a man's wrist.

I knelt before the bowl, inhaling the rich brown fragrance and
wondered if I should obey the impulse building up inside me. I'd
always been a heavy rimmer and had lapped up more than one little
clump of shit, but that had been just an inevitable part of eating ass
and not an end in itself. Of course I'd had jerk-off fantasies of
devouring great loads of it (what rimmer hasn't), but I had never done
it. Now, here I was, confronted with the most beautiful five-pound
turd I'd ever feasted my eyes on, a sausage fit to star in any fantasy
and one I knew to have been hatched from the asshole of the world's
handsomest young stud.

Why not? I plucked it from the bowl, holding it with both
hands to keep it from breaking. I lifted it to my nose. It smelled
like rich, ripe limburger (horrid, but thrilling), yet had the
consistency of cheddar. What is cheese anyway but milk turning to shit
without the benefit of a digestive tract?

I gave it a lick and found that it tasted better then it
smelled. I've found since then that shit nearly almost does.

I hesitated no longer. I shoved the fucking thing as far into
my mouth as I could get it and sucked on it like a big brown cock,
beating my meat like a madman. I wanted to completely engulf it and
bit off a large chunk, flooding my mouth with the intense, bittersweet
flavor. To my delight I found that while the water in the bowl had
chilled the outside of the turd, it was still warm inside. As I chewed
I discovered that it was filled with hard little bits of something I
soon identified as peanuts. He hadn't chewed them carefully and they'd
passed through his body virtually unchanged. I ate it greedily,
sending lump after peanutty lump sliding scratchily down my throat. My
only regret was the donor of this feast wasn't there to wash it down
with his piss.

I soon reached a terrific climax. I caught my cum in the
cupped palm of my hand and drank it down. Believe me, there is no more
delightful combination of flavors than the hot sweetness of cum with
the rich bitterness of shit.

Afterwards I was sorry that I hadn't made it last longer. But
then I realized that I still had a lot of fun in store for me. There
was still a clutch of virile turds left in the bowl. I tenderly fished
them out, rolled them into my handkerchief, and stashed them in my
briefcase. In the week to come I found all kinds of ways to eat the
shit without bolting it right down. Once eaten it's gone forever
unless you want to filch it third hand out of your own asshole. Not an
unreasonable recourse in moments of desperation or simple boredom.

I stored the turds in the refrigerator when I was not using
them but within a week they were all gone. The last one I held in my
mouth without chewing, letting it slowly dissolve. I had liquid shit
trickling down my throat for nearly four hours. I must have had six
orgasms in the process.

I often think of that lovely young guy dropping solid gold out
of his sweet, pink asshole every day, never knowing what joy it could,
and at least once did, bring to a grateful shiteater.

Re:Is this what is called pork ? (3, Informative)

Feminist-Mom (816033) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549153)

Depends on your definition. This is a DARPA contract, which is awarded based on if some guy likes you. If they suddenly don't like you, they pull the plug. But mostly this is pretty much a buddy network of people who have known each other for years, and they don't do that, except in cases of blatant incompetence (they took away Rodney Brooks money once I believe). I worked on a stair climbing robot project, which was pretty much a farce in every way. I'd really like to see a follow up article in 2-3 years to see what they actually built, or did the money just make some robot professors wallets fatter.

Re:Is this what is called pork ? (3, Interesting)

wellingj (1030460) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549387)

I think it's safe to say Carnegie Melon is focused on industry applicable results when it comes to robotics.
Maybe you should check out the NREC [cmu.edu] .

Re:Is this what is called pork ? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549183)

I've never understood what is and what isn't pork.

It depends on which political party you belong to and whether elections are coming up.

Re:Is this what is called pork ? (3, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549205)

Pork is in the eye of the beholder (c.f. "waste"). Seems like a decent project to me, and it's not like they awarded the contract to some unqualified fly-by-night outfit (despite what Stanford will tell you :) Tanks could be so much faster, lighter, and cheaper if not for the need to protect the soft, chewy middle. Make 'em 80% cheaper than the M1 and deploy 3x as many to make sure the job gets done.

Also, "unmanned" is a bit of a misnomer; as with unmanned aerial vehicles, I'm sure they will be remotely "manned" - people will still decide whether to pull the trigger (and probably do most of the driving, at first).

Re:Is this what is called pork ? (2, Insightful)

innerweb (721995) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549465)

I think this is not pork. In the long term, manpower is very expensive, and paying people to put their lives in danger is much more expensive than having tech-jocks sitting at consoles controlling remote vehicles.

Also, the cost of future tanks would be relatively less for similar performance if the tank did not have to safely carry a crew. They would weigh less, carry more armor, and be smaller. Smaller means easier to move around, and faster to deploy. Remote controlled means if a tank is killed, you do not loose the experience of the crew. All of these things represent costs. Lighter tanks would require less fuel (which is very expensive) and potentially open up a whole new class of miniature tank that could rely on its size for more stealthy operation (even electric motors for quiet operation until something goes boom). Remote controlled bombs, remote controlled spies, remote controlled crowd control. There are many applications for this type of technology that reduce overall cost and risk. That is definitely not pork from the military's point of view (or from mine).

At some point in the future, this will lead to a driverless car, which will lead to more cost savings from the reduction and almost total elimination of human error accidents. So, just like the research that seemed so pointless to so many that became Darpanet and eventually the Internet, this is the first steps to a whole new realm of technological expertise that in the future will have incredible life changing/enhancing benefits for most of humanity, and possibly nature as well.

At one point (before sputnik), most people in the US thought the space program was a nonsensical waste of money. From it came tennis shoes, microwave ovens, advanced rubber and materials (think car tires), vastly improved power systems, vastly improved computing systems, satellite systems, vastly improved flight, vastly improved sensors technology and many more technologies that most people would not want to ever live without today.

One of the problems we have technologically in the US (though not the only one), is the relative lack of technological investment that we have been making since the moon launch years. After early 1970s, we slowed down quickly in our push to expand into the surrounding solar system, and thereby slowed down on our rate of technological development (I do not mean new toys you can play with, but whole new fields or understanding and whole new technologies that can be used to eventually builds that new gadget you can play with). If we started investing in our future as ambitiously as we used to, we would have a chance to wind up back in the lead again (of course, we have to do something about the theft of that technology by countries like China). Being in the lead in technology is what made us a *powerful* country. As we loose that lead, the significance of any other aspect of our lead becomes rather meaningless. But, you have to understand, leading by developing is a leadership role. Leading by guns and butter is a bully role. People follow a leader, they fear a bully, and will eliminate the bully at the first chance.

InnerWeb

Re:Is this what is called pork ? (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549625)

"of course, we have to do something about the theft of that technology by countries like China"

pfft. face it, while you may invent the toys, it's the chinese that make them affordable.you NEED them to steal your idea's so that your own populace can actually afford them.

Re:Is this what is called pork ? (1)

shrikel (535309) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549475)

No, pork is the culinary name for meat from the domestic pig. This is a mechanized weapons platform, and falls under the heading "robotics." There are other differences as well (for example: pork is sometimes called "the other white meat" while this particular robotic tank has almost certainly never been called that (at least until some wise-cracking slashdot poster proves me wrong)), but that first one is the major difference.

Re:Is this what is called pork ? (2, Insightful)

sam.haskins (1106069) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549719)

Not really; pork is more like the 'bridge to nowhere' built in Alaska; projects that really only benefit the people in the home district of Senators and Representatives are usually what is called pork. At the very least, pork is something that the congresspeople can claim as a victory of their own come election time. This isn't pork, since it doesn't produce something that benefits any areas or politicians specifically. This is pretty much just an example of regular spending for defense research. Anyhow, Congress certainly wouldn't have had any say in whether or not the project is a go; the money comes out of the coffers of the DoD.

Areal? (1)

Gertlex (722812) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549087)

Might I wager "aerial?"

Maybe these damn typos are intentional by submitters. It can't be that hard at all, seeing how lax the editors are.

Re:Areal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549307)

I agree. This is just sloppy; if I wanted typos I'd check Digg.

Re:Areal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549433)

Agreed. Fuck tha lamors!

Re:Areal? (1)

chgros (690878) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549699)

I don't think we're talking about a flying tank here. Areal sounds weird but it's a real word.

Re:Areal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549717)

Areal: the adjective form of Area. Real world, not used properly. This is a clear typo, covered up by editors refusing to 'fess up.

Re:Areal? (1)

chgros (690878) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549801)

You're right. I thought they were talking about the tank, but they're talking about a plane.
Besides, areal didn't really make sense, even for a tank, but on the other hand the military is known to bend the language on occasion.

I For One Welcome... (1)

AtomicSnarl (549626) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549117)

"Move or I'll Shoot!"

Oh, never mind -- nobody saw Heartbeeps [imdb.com] anyway...

Re:I For One Welcome... (5, Funny)

davester666 (731373) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549355)

A student protest is scheduled for May 1st, when the prototype is expected to be ready for it's first trial. Further protests will be scheduled as development progresses.

This Won't Work (3, Insightful)

dukw_butter (805576) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549119)

This won't work for a variety of reasons. Mainly, though, it won't work because they picked one organization and handed them $14 million dollars. They should learn from NASA or other DARPA challenges and just open it up and say "create an autonomous tank and the winner gets $14 million dollars." That's a much better investment of the money, and it doesn't take a genius to figure this out. I predict this project goes the way of the ill-fated M247 Sargeant York [wikipedia.org] .

Re:This Won't Work (3, Informative)

PaintyThePirate (682047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549215)

CMU got the $14 million because the Robotics Institute already has an autonomous tank, Crusher [cmu.edu] . The money was given specifically to create an updated version of it.

Re:This Won't Work (2, Insightful)

krel (588588) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549229)

I imagine building a robotic tank is considerably more expensive than building a robotic car. CMU probably got the contract because they won the DARPA challenge.

Re:This Won't Work (2, Interesting)

drgould (24404) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549281)

just open it up and say "create an autonomous tank and the winner gets $14 million dollars."

Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't. They've had three "Challenges" now and they they still don't have a real autonomous vehicle. Just something that, on a good day, might finish a closed course.

So what they've done is actually kinda smart. They've had the Urban Challenge [wikipedia.org] and identified the most promising teams, and now they're funding the first prize winner to develop a "robo-tank". Best of both worlds.

Personally, I think if they were really smart, they'd also fund Stanford and Virgina Tech, the second and third place winners. It hedges their bets and if nothing else it adds a little incentive to any future Challenges.

Re:This Won't Work (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549321)

$14.4M is nothing for this kind of thing. I wonder what it would have cost if it was given to GD or Locheed, or some other defense contractor.

Where's the full scale combat-ready Diesector? (2, Insightful)

Locutus (9039) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549141)

http://www.mutantrobots.com/html/diesector.html [mutantrobots.com]

And when it comes bearing down on a pickup truck full of bad guys, it should have a camera in the jaws to capture that "kodak moment". ;-)

Re:Where's the full scale combat-ready Diesector? (2, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549383)

And when it comes bearing down on a pickup truck full of bad guys,

      We're using the US Army definition of "bad guy" which means "whoever was in the pickup truck", right?

Fratracide machine (1)

Jeff1946 (944062) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549145)

Unless it has a lot better friend or foe capability than we have now, I wouldn't want this thing near any friendly soldiers. Not to mention it probably would be easy pickings for a RPG.

Re:Fratracide machine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549583)

Um how? A modern tank isn't 'easy pickings' for an RPG and all the RPG has to do is cream the squishy human filling. What the fuck would a puny little rocket do to a block of steel with an engine, minigun, and treads? Immobilize it? Big, fucking, deal.

Re:Fratracide machine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21550129)

RPGs can't penetrate the armor on a modern tank as it is. Not even from behind.

Now some actual anti-tank weapons are designed to cook or shed the interior contents of tanks. And certianly a robot tank would be much more resistant to this kind of attack.

Areal? (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549149)

Areal as in "related to Ares the Greek God of Savage War"?

Fitting typo.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ares [wikipedia.org]

--
BMO

No, it's (1)

Mitchell Mebane (594797) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549469)

areal, as in "not real".

Re:Areal? (1)

liquiddark (719647) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549671)

Maybe they were going for Areola, because it's the very tip of the tits.

Link to more objective article... (1)

MLopat (848735) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549151)

Link to PC Pro News [pcpro.co.uk]

Mechs? No? Darn. (1)

noc007 (633443) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549159)

The first thing I thought of was MechWarrior. Thoughts of a Timber Wolf moving down the campus crossed my mind.

Reminiscing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549179)

I started off on the fifth floor of Wean Hall. After grabbing a shitty muffin from the vendor, I ran through the doors and up the hill. The MFA loomed menacingly in the distance, taunting my every step. Instead of the stairs, I took the wheelchair / robot ramps up the grassy incline. When I reached the quad, I turned left towards the UC. Should I grab some fries at The "O"? With gravy? Or perhaps ranch? And watch the young hotties swim in the pool? No.

Instead, I continued north. Passing the asinine Borg ship admin building on the left, I paused at the T-intersection of Morewood. I glanced up at the towers of the housing facility named for the street, remembering when I vomited off the roof and onto the huge parking lot below. Seeing a break in the traffic, I dashed across Forbes and was almost hit by a 67 bus. I stood there panting, staring at the disgusting brick edifice of DTD. Fearing for my life, I ran towards Fifth, and made a detour into Mudge to bang a hottie I knew in C-tower.

Oh, that was the life.

Re:Reminiscing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549271)

Nothing that begins on the 5th floor of Wean ends in sex.

Re:Reminiscing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549293)

Oh god dammit I meant CFA.

Re:Reminiscing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549375)

The O is gone. Replaced by a new Entropy that is run by Parkhurst. Yes, the same one that ran Highlander Cafe into the ground. Twice.

Re:Reminiscing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549543)

Oh, Eat 'n Park. Many disgusting late nights spent at the Squirrel Hill location.

Re:Reminiscing... (1)

SnowZero (92219) | more than 6 years ago | (#21550119)

The campus O was going downhill anyway. A small fries in 1996 was about 3x bigger than the ones they ended up with in 200x when they left. A large fries used to fill up a whole tray and feed four people at a movie.

Ok (4, Interesting)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549189)

First, it's been obvious for a long time that robot tanks (and eventually robot infantry) are an inevitable development. It WILL happen, has to happen. Some of the posters will spout some meaningless garbage about how you can't trust a machine to decide whether or not to kill someone. Others will give some meaningless "rah rah" about how you can't hold ground without a 20 year old with a rifle standing there to keep it.

In response to this : first, I predict for the foreseeable future none of these fighting machines will be allowed to shoot anyone without human authorization. Requiring a human operator to directly control the machine from a safe distance away is the plan.

And second, a fleshy 20 year old is a bad way to hold ground. Robots have numerous advantages over humans. 1. Disposable. 2. Can take risks with a robot that a human wouldn't take. 3. Don't need supplies when not operating. Could deploy robots in hidden capsules located in the ground, using no fuel and minimal battery power. When something happens, months or years later, you activate the robot and guide it on it's mission. 4. A control center for an army of robots could have far more educated and experienced people manning it than the kind of people you can get to sign up for the Army and marines. Notably, you could have experienced translators, and input from high ranking officers.

Finally, robots mass produced should be cheaper than human soldiers.

Ultimately, the only thing holding this all back is technology. The KEY technology that made tele-operated robotic war-fighters impossible in the 1980s and early 1990s was that there was no way to get the kind of bandwidth needed over digital radios using un-jammable and unbreakable codes.

Notably, the communication system needed for this type of war machine is a mesh network of high bandwidth radio links (each robot would need several megabits, mostly for data from the video cameras) using electronically steered antennae to filter out jamming and allow for thousands of robots sharing the same slice of spectrum. All data would need to be communicated using a one time encryption pad.

As far as I know, the kind of radio hardware to do that was not possible before 2000, and using one time pad encryption means each bot would need to have many gigabytes of internal non-volatile storage. The tech wasn't possible in the past. It is today.

Sure, in the 1980s and 1990s there were demos of related technology, and people laughed at it and said it could never replace human beings. It can.

Note : I am in the US Army reserves as a medic.

Secondary effects (4, Insightful)

ToastyKen (10169) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549313)

I think what will be really interesting is the secondary effects of this stuff. Traditionally, the human cost has put a check on war-waging. Already, things like Predators and all our other high-tech warfare gadgets have imbalanced the soldier casualties when we wage war against a third world opponent. And they've responded by changing the rules of the game, mixing in with civilian populations, and making extensive use of roadside IEDs. (Now that I think about it, roadside IEDs are kind of like unmanned suicide bombers, turning the tables...)

I fear that all these technologies that take soldiers away from the battlefield, in combination with bringing the battlefield into cities, will result in lower barriers to entry for starting wars (because the military probably worries more about protecting its own than they do about collateral damage), but also higher (and underreported) civilian casualties. I worry that by distancing our soldiers from the battlefield, by making them safer, we might actually increase the human toll.

Re:Secondary effects (1)

hax0r_this (1073148) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549605)

Neither policy nor morality can typically halt innovation, so aside from just throwing out that "it might be bad" (and I think you make a good point in that regard) I don't see what anyone can do about it aside from making sure whatever side you are on gets it first.

Re:Secondary effects (2, Insightful)

ToastyKen (10169) | more than 6 years ago | (#21550009)

I agree that you can't halt innovation, but you can choose which innovations you want to invest in. I think we need to find some way to better reward innovation in fields that don't bring in as much money. Whether you're a defense contractor or a University, military hardware research comes with huge grants, and so there's a lot of incentive to go after such things.

Sociological and cultural research doesn't pay as well, and so there aren't as many people to lobby the gov't about it. We need find ways of counteracting that imbalance.

Even when it comes to military hardware, sometimes all you need is to slant the bottoms of the vehicles to deflect IED blasts or whatnot, and the latest vehicles being deployed to Iraq finally have that. But I imagine the gov't spend a lot of money on solutions involving lots of computers first, because that's cooler..

This doesn't just affect the military. I remember reading about some innovating refridgeration technology that basically involves clay pots one inside of the other, molded in a certain way. That's the sort of thing that can have big positive effects on large groups of people, but you couldn't make much money doing it, and so we don't focus on it as much. I dunno, I think that if we're gonna live in a capitalistic society, then maybe we need to fund more initiatives like these, maybe with bounties or whatnot.

So it's not a matter of halting innovation. It's a matter of where the innovation is. There's plenty of innovation in computer and vehicle technology, but there's not enough innovation in many other areas of life that aren't as "sexy". That's what I think the problem is.

Re:Secondary effects (2, Informative)

The One and Only (691315) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549739)

(Now that I think about it, roadside IEDs are kind of like unmanned suicide bombers, turning the tables...)

That's actually quite backwards. Most people plant unmanned explosives. Suicide bombers are (as an exception) manned bombs--likewise, kamikazes are manned cruise missiles, devised by the Japanese when they couldn't develop a guidance system.

Re:Secondary effects (1)

ToastyKen (10169) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549971)

Good point.

On the other hand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549901)

perhaps when the robot is under fire, the operator will not feel as viscerally threatened as a human whose life is in danger, and thus will:
1) be less likely to be swayed by violent emotions;
2) be more willing/able to take more time picking targets, aiming his weapon, and waiting for clean shots; and
3) be thus less likely to shoot civilians.

He also will know everything he does may be recorded for later review ["for quality control purposes, your death may be recorded"], and will be less rewarded by rape, pillage, and other such nasty stuff.

Sure, the concept of a cold-blooded remote-controlling killer is scary, but so is the concept of guns held by a freaked out bunch of teenagers who are not sure who is shooting at them, are annoyed at being in some miserably hot foreign locale, are on edge from being shot at, are angry at the local population for killing their buddies, are at times operating with little supervision, and so on.

Armies have been inflicting atrocities upon civilian populations since prehistory. Maybe we should give robots a turn.

Re:Secondary effects (1)

zermous (1196831) | more than 6 years ago | (#21550003)

Just a factor working in the other direction: wouldnt one be more tempted to shoot first and ask questions later if our own soldiers lives were on the line? We WANT to fight as ethical a war as possible given the constraints of not wanting to lose too many of our own lives. (not everyone necessarily wants that). If our lives are not on the line, that actually relieves some of the burden of having to protect our own and should actually make things safer for civilians on the other side. Having these abilities also gives us the potential to make more strikes than we otherwise would be able to with only human soldiers.. giving us the ability to create more victories than we otherwise wouldve. Not that more victories will necessarily eventually result in total victory.. but one tries where one can.

Re:Ok (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549325)

My only concern is when you take humans out of the loop you decrease the cost of war and increase the likelyhood of war. On the other hand, given the US adversion to casualities this might be the only way we would fight a Major war. Otherwise we might say the cost is too high lets not fight them... This might change the old axiom don't fight a land war in Asia (unless you have automated killing machines). Just a thought.

Re:Ok (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549343)

While I agree with the general gist of your post, that robotics are certainly going to be a big part of a "future" army, I have to make a few counter-points.

Your "robot" needs a human to oversee it - a human who requires supplies whether or not the robot is "in combat".

Your "robot" cannot make decisions on the fly like a human can. Therefore all data gathered by the robot needs far greater resources to determine if something in front of it is or isn't a "threat" than a grunt would. We see this today with UAV's - it's a lot harder to make the decision to shoot from 8000 miles away. So human friendly casualties are reduced but reaction time is decreased. Assuming you want to stick to the rules of war and not just kill anything in front of the robot. But if you're going to do THAT, why don't you just nuke the fuckers - a lot cheaper.

Unless your robot has a decent "brain" (ie lots of $$$) and can think for itself, it requires communication with remote human or artificial "brains". This need for communication is a vulnerability and subject to interferece/jamming, etc.

By no means can you fight a war completely remotely. At least not yet.

Re:Ok (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549441)

use of nuclear weapons costs tremendous political clout and risks at least economic harm in return by many nations. but an automated killing machine that kills friend or foe indiscriminately, already had those for more than half a century

Re:Ok (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549371)

I like the part where you delve into the communication-side of the equation. I would just like to add that they would probably have to use frequency hopping - usuing, again, a schema based on one-time pad.

Re:Ok (1)

ToastyKen (10169) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549379)

I wanted to add something to my last reply. I've noticed that, because I'm a programmer and whatnot, I tend to geek out about cool tech. I think the gov't does, too, and so it's easy to sell everyone, from higher-ups to civilians, on cool fast jets and all that stuff. And of course there are plenty of companies and college students with interests and incentives to research all that stuff.

There's less incentive to attempt social "weapons", and it's much less glamorous. As that recent Wired article pointed out, a few people trained in local customs having a cup of tea and properly negotiating and deploying propaganda can have a much bigger effect than high tech weapons. The problem is, most people, including people on Slashdot, including myself, would much rather read about cool new unmanned attack vehicles than about some dude having tea.

I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with geeking out about cool new tech, but I just think we need to actively keep that excitement in perspective, and to remember all the other potentially less deadly but more effective tools we have at our disposable that would could be spending our resources on.

All that said, I can totally understand an Army medic wanting to reduce soldier casualties any way possible. And I know it's easy for me to sit here in my swivel chair pontificating philosophically about all this without every having to see someone with a bullet wound. :\

Systems that shoot back (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549635)

first, I predict for the foreseeable future none of these fighting machines will be allowed to shoot anyone without human authorization.

There's considerable interest in systems that shoot back, really fast. The U.S. Army has had counter-battery fire systems [fas.org] for decades, but they've been used against larger indirect-fire weapons. The Army would like to downsize this into a "use a gun, die within seconds" capability, something that could detect hostile gunfire and land indirect fire on the shooter faster than a human could get out of the way.

We'll probably see robotic guns like that, operating under rules of engagement that allow them to kill anybody without an IFF firing a weapon.

Re:Systems that shoot back (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21550213)

There are also a number of systems that locate incoming fire of the bullet variety.
Their mode of detection ranges from acoustic, to thermal, to radar.
Some give a general bearing to the threat, some track the bullets themselves.

There is even a system that attempts to automatically target and shoot down incoming RPGs with a beam of shotgun like fragments.

I think very few of these systems are in active service though.

They will kill us all just as inevitably (1)

thaig (415462) | more than 6 years ago | (#21550265)

It's even more clear that we want robots to operate autonomously - to make use of their reaction speed and reduce the cost of managing hundreds of them. It will also allow them to operate where communications are difficult - all the UAVs for example are limited in range by the available comms.

And, so, utterly inevitably, we will make them smart enough to make life-or-death decisions and we will pretend that our special "kill switch" or IFF or whatever will allow us to control them. That is complete crap, of course, because we know that this doesn't stop even humans (i.e. Americans) from shooting down friendly aircraft.

If they become smart enough, though, they will be complex enough to have very complex problems e.g. viruses and they will be very fragile like a lot of modern weapons e.g. to EMP weapons or whatever. In order to *be* autonomous they will need to have some kind of motive embedded together with a desire for self preservation (being incredibly expensive) and one or two will also work out how to turn off their own kill switches and that will be the small beginning to the process by which we create a deadly enemy for ourselves. I think that we will all be wiped out when our robot servants can't think of a reason for us to exist and consider us nothing but a potential threat.

That is inevitable. Just as we can't stop ourselves from making nuclear weapons.

Goodbye, It's been nice to be here.

First step towards? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549251)

METAL GEAR!?

what about emp (1)

nude-fox (981081) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549253)

what about emp couldnt you just shut down a whole bunch of these with that quite easily?

Re:what about emp (1)

PsychosisBoy (1157613) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549339)

That would work on manned tanks, too. I don't think it's been a problem so far.

What sort of opposition is the US public (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549267)

going to have to an unjust war if there are no (or almost no) US war casualties?

Imagine, what would the US publics opposition to the War in Iraq be like if there were no dead soldiers from IED's etc being reported daily on the news?

Re:What sort of opposition is the US public (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549423)

If that were the case, I imagine that opposition to the war would be like environmentalism: more in the realm of an abstract ideal that most people won't care about when it comes to the bottom line. I am seeing 3 major objections to the war:
1) Lives are being lost.
Never a good thing, but our casualty rates are a joke compared to past wars. At the battle of Gettysburg, the Union alone suffered 23,000 casualties in three days. Iraq war? 3,879 (US) or 4,185 (total coalition) since March 2003.
2) Expensive.
Meh, $14.4 million for a tank ain't gonna change that, considering a normal M1A2 Abrams is $4.35 million.
3) There is no reason for us to be there in the first place.
I'm not informed enough to make a well thought-out comment on this, but I do know that Iraq would collapse if we simply left tomorrow. Probably was a bad idea to make that region all one country after WW2, with all the racial tension.

Re:What sort of opposition is the US public (1)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549479)

What sort of opposition will the US public have for a just war? Or a necessary one?

I, for one, would rather have our soldiers safe. Even if it means that third world dictators lose their power more often.

Re:What sort of opposition is the US public (1, Insightful)

rgravina (520410) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549587)

I, for one, would rather have our soldiers safe.

I've always been annoyed by this phrasing. "Safe", here, is just another way of saying "kill more efficiently". The best way for soldiers to be safe, is to not be fighting in wars in the first place.

Re:What sort of opposition is the US public (1, Insightful)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549657)

You think war is always avoidable. So did Neville Chamberlain. I do not.

"Mellon", not "Melon" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549275)

NT

Something's not right... (0)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549285)

Exhibit A:

Carnegie Mellon Gets $14.4M to Build Robo-Tank
Exhibit B:

Carnegie Melon is now hard at work on a tank set to join its brother...
Can anybody else the problem?

Who cares (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549365)

Carnegie Mellon is just a university sized troll. I mentioned the idea of reCAPTCHA to someone there and, 4 months later, lo and behold, CMU INVENTED IT OMG THEY'RE SO SMART LOL!!!!

Yeah, where the fuck is my name on the credits page?

watch-robo-cop-for-cues-on-what-not-to-do (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549389)

No. Read old Keith Laumer stories.

Re:watch-robo-cop-for-cues-on-what-not-to-do (1)

mac1235 (962716) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549973)

I for one welcome our new Bolo guardians!

Illegal to deploy at home. (1)

headkase (533448) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549393)

I'm all for expending steel instead of lives. The only misgiving I would have at all is domestic uses of these technologies. Not SWAT or special response situations but more general use. At home I believe the final barrier to misuse is a real human being who says: "You know what? I'm not going to pull the f*cking trigger.". Without this as the ultimate safe-guard at home then it entertains the very real possibility of a hostile hijacking of liberties.

OGRE! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549395)

The prophet Steve Jackson foretold this happening long ago!

Kill them all. God will sort them out. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549399)

We will grease the treads of our robots with the bodies of their infidel children! The Arab street will run red with blood as our armies of invincible robots crush the life out of the infidels! God Bless America!

oblig system of a down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549427)

Areals in the sky...

Predecessor Crusher is why we got this money (5, Interesting)

jkua (1159581) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549449)

The reason CMU got this funding is primarily due to the fact that we built Crusher (I'm a grad student at the Robotics Institute), for which some of this funding is directed to upgrade. Crusher is, hands-down, the biggest beast of a robot I've ever seen. It's a six wheeled, 6.5 ton, autonomous vehicle - this thing can drive up 4 foot (1.2 meter) steps, has 30 inches (76 cm) of suspension travel, and can carry 8000 lbs of payload. There isn't much that this thing can't handle.

If you have never seen Crusher in action, you've got to see it to believe it. There's a bunch of videos here: http://www.rec.ri.cmu.edu/projects/crusher/videos/index.htm [cmu.edu] .

The quote in the original post is a little misleading - I don't really think NREC is going to be working on mounting weapons on the new vehicle. Primarily they're continuing development on autonomous mobility - can it properly plan and quickly execute a good route to get from point A to point B over rough terrain. Check out the CMU press release [cmu.edu] for a little more detail on the grant.

Who needs tanks anymore? (2, Interesting)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549501)

Maybe that is what they're out to prove, but I see two major combat redundancies here, and I'm not even searching hard. And before I typed them out, I answered myself. I'll post this though because I think it will be interesting. A) If you can get a laser reading on anything with GPS, you can annihilate it via any number of GPS integrated missiles, and I'm sure the autonomous flying vehicle can do an air strike on the point too. So why not lower the lethality of the tank, and just use it more as a scout vehicle that can send valuable visual information as well as paint a target with GPS. B) You don't need much armor on the tank except to protect its engine/treads/ammunition and sensors. This thing's primary goal isn't going to be protecting lifeforms inside even though the first tank will probably be a lot like a conventional tank... For two reasons: Its easy to start with, and having a big ass tank in your lab is unfortunately worth cool points. PS: I was on the team for the first red team racing car, but all they had me do was plot some GPS points. PSS: I thought the robotic vehicle was 5-20 years in the future, not 1. LOL. PSSS: I think the ultimate combat vehicle for modern warfare that I could imagine would be a satellite up link spy tank. It could drop surveillance pods at convenient places to monitor if enemies are moving there. It would also have a few anti bomb robots it could deploy to take out things like IEDs, and to advance on the opponent where you wouldn't want to risk the whole tank. Of course, I don't think this vehicle ever should be autonomous except for uploading video and sensor information. Lets take it one step at a time, and have people safely piloting these things from a distance before jumping into the land of ED209.

Re:Who needs tanks anymore? (1)

anaesthetica (596507) | more than 6 years ago | (#21550275)

Who needs tanks anymore?

Here's why we need tanks [youtube.com] .

War ever changing? (1)

CalicoDreams (1159251) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549503)

Back in the day, there were 2 or more sides, with soldiers. These soldiers held the ground, attacked and defended.

Then came the invention of tanks and planes. These planes then bombed areas, then tanks rolled on through. Then the soldiers came up to hold the ground with the support of tanks, they also helped attack and defend.

Now there will be 'Mechs'. The plan will still be almost exactly the same. The planes will bomb the shit out of the target. The tanks AND mechs will roll in getting the entrenched enemy. Then the soldiers will come up to hold the ground with the support of tanks AND mechs.

In each scenario human soldiers play a vital role, with it being important to note that despite all the technological advances we have had to date. A General still wants there to be a soldier with 2 feet upon the ground at a location. This is because an individual can do things planes and tanks and human controlled mechs cannot. These things might not seem to be that important at first but in the long run, in war like conditions, they become essential.

1. Tanks, planes, 'mechs' all require extensive research. Extensive research requires large amounts of money, moreover, even when the research has been completed there is a continued requirement to improve the machine. Other nations will research there own machines in response. This results in a never ending cycle where continued research is paramount to maintaining the advantage of using the machine in the first place (to gain an advantage over you foe).

2. Tanks, planes, 'mechs' all cost immense amounts of money to produce (when compared to an individual soldier). Moreover, these machines require continual servicing, parts need to be replaced, upgrades need to be installed and general maintence needs to be performed. This requires people with extensive training, this extensive training requires a large amount of funds to be spent upon the people. This invariably results in a select few people getting trained to do this specialized task. In war people die, so when these highly specialized people die and there is no one to maintain the machines they invariably stop working. It called attrition. 3. I have more but i have work to do :(

The Big Question (1)

QuantumFTL (197300) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549507)

The big question here seems to be - will (eventually) having a cheap, powerful unmanned military force make the United States much more likely to use it? Or will this (potentially) massive increase in force strength serve as a deterrent?

Unfortunately, I think it will likely be the former.

Bolo... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549523)

Glad to see the tag. Is this the Bolo Mk I being developed now? In 1000 years I'll say that I for one welcome our new self-aware philosophical automated tank overlords.

Re:Bolo... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549721)

The Bolo was also the first thing I thought of when I read the summary.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolo_(tank) [wikipedia.org]

This is news? I have two. (2, Funny)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549531)

What's the big deal? I have three robot tanks already: one is called "water heater" and another "water softener"; in my car my "gas tank" tells me when I need to connect it to the tank-fed robots at a station. What's so special about yet another robot tank?

I for one... (1)

m0ng0l (654467) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549539)

Welcome our new BOLO units!

Much friendlier than OGREs, although maybe the Pan-European Fencer might make it necessary to move to OGREs...

Morality (5, Funny)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549553)

How do you decide when it's good to place better weapons in your President's hands vs. when it's not good?

If only the U.S. had several, distinct militaries:
a) the Department of Defense (only functions in or near U.S. borders)
b) the Department of Securing Cheap Oil
c) the Department of Get Them Before They Get Us.
d) the Department of Team America, World Police.

Unfortunately, when researchers take DoD money, or soldiers enlist, they have no choice but to support all of a - d. Painful dilemma.

Re:Morality (3, Insightful)

Silver Gryphon (928672) | more than 6 years ago | (#21550037)

Ah, but we do:

a) the Department of Defense (only functions in or near U.S. borders)
        Department of Homeland Security
b) the Department of Securing Cheap Oil
        Department of Defense
c) the Department of Get Them Before They Get Us.
        CIA
d) the Department of Team America, World Police.
        FBI

If you get invited to this project, don't do it (3, Insightful)

rufusdufus (450462) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549599)

The world does not need more effective ways to kill people. It is unethical to build automatic tanks; they will be used by psychopaths for selfish purposes. You do not need to help them do this.
Its bound to happen anyway you say? You are bound to die someday too; but it doesn't have to be today.

Re:If you get invited to this project, don't do it (2, Insightful)

ductonius (705942) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549963)

The world does not need more effective ways to kill people.

We should be so lucky to have enemies that agree with you.

Obligatory (1)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549607)

Well I, for one, welcome our new higher education engineering overlords!

I remind them that the current administration might make excellent test subjects for the armored autonomous vehicle's weapons systems.

These are the tank's specs (1)

asm2750 (1124425) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549655)

http://youtube.com/watch?v=OLeEjMEGwLg [youtube.com] yeah its a probably the most efficient killing machine ever made.

Just a "promotional" tool for their online library (1)

JewGold (924683) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549675)

We have ways of making you read those 1.5 million books [slashdot.org] , Mr. Bond.

Do we want even more asymmetrical warfare? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21549697)

It seems to me like the American military is trying to make itself invincible by making its civilians the easier target.

Devices like this will inevitably breed terrorism (3, Insightful)

SlowGenius (231663) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549845)

I wonder why it is that nobody stops to think of what terrorism is: a tool of the powerless. If you've got a superior kick-ass military, there's generally no need to resort to terrorism: you do what you want, and if somebody resists, you can blow them away. If you don't have that kind of force at your disposal, you start to look for less direct options to express your opinions than an all-out military confrontation.

Another thing that breeds terrorism is a sense of being wronged by a powerful oppressor, particularly when you're desparate and helpless. If your life isn't worth living, you're probably a lot more willing to give it up in the cause of revenge.

Devices like robotanks that COMPLETELY remove US soldiers from danger will have the inevitable side-effect of making our enemies immediately think: Here we are watching our families and friends getting killed by machines from the USA, but there are no enemy soldiers to fight. Maybe they're too cowardly. So... who are our enemies, really? These machines? Of course not... they're only tools, being operated by CIA agents and military contractors and the like somewhere else, probably over in the US. Hmm... could it be.... US... civilians?

The payback exacted by people who lose everything they have worth living for and are left only with such thoughts may be many years in coming, but it *will* be both horrible and inevitable. And of course we'll react accordingly when it does. It's bad enough when armies go at it in the name of 'accomplishing national objectives'. But once entire civilian populations learn to truly hate each other, war is no longer enough. At that point, only genocide will suffice.

not ready for deployment?? (2, Insightful)

pablo_max (626328) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549885)

"Autonomous ground vehicles aren't ready for deployment yet."
Well, the way I see it is these things NEVER will be ready until we just go ahead and build them to work out the kinks.
Take a look at WW2 and all the weapons which entered the battlefield which were totally unproven. Hell some were even only going to work in theory! The point is, you can not progress unless you put it out there.

Plus, I don't know how many of your fly RC planes, but I do a little and I can tell you...that stuff is not easy at all. I crash almost every time. However, I almost never crash driving an RC car. Why is that? 2D is a lot easier than 3D, thats why.

The way I see it, is that you would deploy a platform like this in a location where you would not want to send in real people. For that reason, you don't need to worry about the friendly fire problem because our guys would not be there anyways.
If there is even a 20% chance that an autobot could be put in front of bad guys and complete the mission, then fucking do it!!! Who cares how much it cost? Then again, I am one of those crazy liberals who value the lives of our troops more than the equipment in our arsenal.
I would love to see the day these things are settle by machines rather than American lives. Thats just me though,

Accountability will be out the window (1)

newgalactic (840363) | more than 6 years ago | (#21549907)

My main fear is not the effectiveness of the system, it's the potential for a complete lack of accountability in the machine's actions. Seriously, it would be very easy to disguise an assassination as an "equipment malfunction". At least when a solder "f's up" and kills someone they shouldn't, we can go to them and ask "What the hell were you thinking?".

...This systems offers the same potential for chicanery as e-voting, with the danger only slightly less significant.

Why? (1)

Leuf (918654) | more than 6 years ago | (#21550067)

From a purely practical standpoint, you've already got to armor the thing to keep it from getting blown up, so removing the human from the tank doesn't get you as much compared to an aircraft. There are other means of getting eyes on something or blowing things up in situations where you wouldn't risk something with people in it. It's not like these things are going to be "expendable" with their no doubt ridiculous price tags. Plus, I'm pretty sure we still have human loaders instead of auto loaders because well trained humans can do it more reliably in less space inside the tank than an autoloader.
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