03:00. The aircraft touches down in enemy territory. In the dark of night, a slight crack opens and on the ground lands not a grunt, but a robot. It imitates a dog, four legs and all, and begins to gather intel. From within the helicopter, a technician pilots the automaton, keeping an entire squad of soldiers out of harm.
But no one yells cut, and there’s no animator back in Burbank, CA animating the robot. This is a realistic scenario, one which the U.S. Military is eager to turn into a reality. According to a press release, The Department of the Air Force, in conjunction with U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Space Command conducted a second test of their Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS). From August 31st to September 3rd the military tested this system that assists them during combat situations.
Featured prominently n this effort was a set of robotic dogs that patrolled perimeters during the operation, reports The Drive. The machines, developed by Ghost Robotics, are known as UGVs, or Unmanned Ground Vehicles. Like their cousins, the Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAVs), these canine look-a-likes will be a part of the future of warfare.
Robotics; Tomorrow’s Tech, Today.
Ghost Robotics may be an unfamiliar name in the robotics space, especially when compared to the household name Boston Dynamics, who have a robotic dog of their own, appropriately named Spot. While it seems that Boston Dynamics is not ready to apply their technology to warfare quite yet, Ghost Robotics boasts superior stability, durability, and simplicity in their unit, known as the Vision 60. Master Sgt. Lee Boston, when speaking to CNN, explained that “the dogs give us visuals of the area, all while keeping our defenders closer to the aircraft.”
Robotics, of course, is an ever-evolving field that leads the way in both scientific and engineering innovations. Boston Dynamics touts that seek to change your idea of what robots can do, and has already done so on several occasions. While their robotic arms, Handle and Pick, aren’t as sexy as robot war dogs, they are the everyday applications of the technology; they optimize supply chains and save companies money.
Questions of Ethicality
Though, it is important to note that warehouses and warzones are drastically different arenas, particularly when considering Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics.” While UNILAD reports that Ghost Robotics’ units are only intended for “Intelligence, Surveillance, [and] Reconnaissance (ISR) missions,” it’s not hard to imagine a slippery slope where the Laws of Robotics are brushed up against in the name of saving lives. A precarious dynamic to balance when citizens are quick to conjure images of a Terminator or a Black Mirror Metalhead tearing humanity asunder.
Is the impending, robo-apocalypse just a tad too much to bear in 2020? Don’t worry, I understand! Check out this article about a robot arm saving a puppy from danger.` It’s simple and has a happy ending—just what we need these days.