Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Them Robots

There's more in the news about Robots this week. Apparently boffins in the USA and Holland have made great strides (pardon the pun) in the development of robots that walk like humans. Please note that "while the Cornell robot is powered by batteries in its arms, the Delft robot uses gas canisters in an attempt to mimic human muscles. It has an empty bucket for a head, to emphasise that it uses no intelligence." You might think that the American robot would have an empty head too as a gesture of solidarity with the country's President!

A third robot, from the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has been nicknamed the Toddler because of its walking style. It uses neural networks to learn how to walk better - adapting its movement according to the surface it is on.

This leads naturally onto an article in the Sunday Times about the use of robot soldiers. The US Army has revealed that it plans to deploy 18 armed robots in Iraq in April. They will be controlled remotely by human troops, and will probably be used to enter buildings to flush out insurgents and to inspect vehicles suspected of carrying bombs.

The article suggests that much more sophisticated robots are not far off, and points out that the Pentagon has earmarked £70 billion towards the development of robots and other high tech devices.

Robot fighting machines may "kill without pity or remorse". They won't ask for a salary or a pension, and the folks back home won't mind too much if they come back in body bags. There is no space here to summarise the rest of the piece, but it does conjure up some frightening possibilities.