• RobotsBio-Inspired Theoretical Research May Improve Robots’ Effectiveness on Battlefield

    In an effort to make robots more effective and versatile teammates for soldiers in combat, Army researchers are on a mission to understand the value of the molecular living functionality of muscle, and the fundamental mechanics that would need to be replicated in order to artificially achieve the capabilities arising from the proteins responsible for muscle contraction.

  • PerspectiveThe Real Robot Threat

    For decades, science fiction has speculated on the theme of robot servants rising up to overwhelm their human masters. Such scenarios remain fantasy, because they require self-reproducing machines with a will to power and the ability and desire to cooperate with each other to carry off a grand collective design. Instead what we have seen are drone weapons, most typically aircraft, under human command. The problem, however, occurs with proposals to eliminate human operators and allow such systems to control themselves using artificial intelligence. The problem “is that it would allow whole armies, obedient without the limiting constraint of human thought, to be commanded directly by tyrannical elites,” Robert Zubrin writers.

  • Perspective: Killer robotsComing Soon to a Battlefield: Robots That Can Kill

    A Marine Corps program called Sea Mob aims to develop cutting-edge technology which would allow vessels to undertake lethal assaults without a direct human hand at the helm. A handful of such systems have been deployed for decades, though only in limited, defensive roles, such as shooting down missiles hurtling toward ships. But with the development of AI-infused systems, the military is now on the verge of fielding machines capable of going on the offensive, picking out targets and taking lethal action without direct human input.

  • RoboticsAgile scouting robots

    Researchers have developed an agile robot, called Salto, that looks like a Star Wars Imperial walker in miniature and may be able to aid in scouting and search-and-rescue operations. Robots like this may one day be used to save lives of both warfighters and civilians, researchers said.

  • Killer robotsKiller robots already exist, and they’ve been here a very long time

    By Mike Ryder

    The question is not so much whether we should use autonomous weapon systems in battle – we already use them, and they take many forms. Rather, we should focus on how we use them, why we use them, and what form – if any – human intervention should take.

  • Killer robotsChances of UN banning killer robots looking increasingly remote

    The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots warns chances of achieving a U.N. treaty banning the development, production and use of fully autonomous lethal weapons, also known as killer robots, are looking increasingly remote. Experts from some 80 countries are attending a weeklong meeting to discuss the prospect of negotiating an international treaty.

  • Nuclear safetyRobots help in the demanding Fukushima cleanup efforts

    In 2011, a tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake all but decimated the Pacific Coast of Tohoku, Japan, including the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. A catastrophic meltdown ensued. Many tons of nuclear fuel, boiled down to a radioactive lava, corroded the steel surrounding the facility’s three reactors. Today, the cleanup effort is still projected to take several decades. S&T and NIST developed standard test methods for robots, which the Japanese government is now beginning to apply directly to their Fukushima cleanup efforts.

  • Rescue robotsRoboCup 2018: Testing methods used to evaluate rescue robots

    Since 1997, several continents have played host to an international soccer tournament. No, not the World Cup — the RoboCup. Robots of all shapes and sizes test their “metal” in the world’s favorite sport. Engineers and fans from across the globe have gathered to watch hunks of autonomous steel try to nudge a ball into a miniature net.

  • RoboBoatsRoboBoat competition tests students’ engineering skills

    Last week, teams of students from thirteen schools—representing six countries—tested their engineering skills by developing autonomous boats during the 11th annual International RoboBoat Competition. The Navy says that that ingenuity will be needed as the desire for autonomous systems continues to grow—not only for the naval service, but across the commercial sector as companies like Dominos, Amazon and Uber all want to use autonomous vehicles for deliveries.  

  • TransportationDriverless ferries to replace footbridges

    By Unni Skoglund

    As towns grow, the need arises for more river and canal crossings. But bridges are expensive and hinder the flow of boat traffic. An autonomous and self-propelled passenger ferry that can “see” kayakers and boats, and that shows up right when you need it, could be an ingenious substitute for footbridges. Soon the prototype for the world’s first driverless electric passenger ferry will be ready to launch in Trondheim, Norway.

  • CybersecurityDiminutive robot defends factories against cyberthreats

    It’s small enough to fit inside a shoebox, yet this robot on four wheels — called HoneyBot — has a big mission: keeping factories and other large facilities safe from hackers. The diminutive device is designed to lure in digital troublemakers who have set their sights on industrial facilities. HoneyBot will then trick the bad actors into giving up valuable information to cybersecurity professionals.

  • Nuclear safetyPipe-crawling robot to help decommission DOE nuclear facility

    A pair of autonomous robots developed by Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute will soon be driving through miles of pipes at the U.S. Department of Energy’s former uranium enrichment plant in Piketon, Ohio, to identify uranium deposits on pipe walls. The CMU robot has demonstrated it can measure radiation levels more accurately from inside the pipe than is possible with external techniques.

  • Robot-human “collaborative autonomy”Researchers join AI-enabled robots in “collaborative autonomy”

    A team of firefighters clears a building in a blazing inferno, searching rooms for people trapped inside or hotspots that must be extinguished. Except this isn’t your typical crew. Most apparent is the fact that the firefighters are not all human. They are working side-by-side with artificially intelligent (AI) robots who are searching the most dangerous rooms, and making life or death decisions. This scenario is potentially closer than you might think, but while AI-equipped robots might be technologically capable of rendering aid, sensing danger or providing protection for their flesh-and-blood counterparts, the only way they can be valuable to humans is if their operators are not burdened with the task of guiding them.

  • Search & rescueIsraeli walk-and-fly Rooster robot aids disaster relief

    By Brian Blum

    RoboTiCan’s Rooster robot can help reach injured victims of natural disasters where it is not safe to send a human rescue worker. Rooster got its name from the fowl’s preference for walking but being able to fly when necessary, Ofir Bustan, RoboTiCan’s COO, said. “Most of the time it walks, but when it runs into an obstacle, it can hover and fly.” That makes Rooster different from most other search-and-rescue robots, which can either walk or fly but not both – meaning they can get stuck or are too high above the ground to search effectively for survivors.

  • Killer robotsWorld’s tech leaders call on UN to ban killer robots

    An open letter by 116 tech leaders from 26 countries urges the United Nations against opening the Pandora’s box of lethal robot weapons. The open letter is the first time that AI and robotics companies have taken a joint stance on the issue. “Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare,” the letter states. “Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.”