kwc.org Photos Spare Cycles MythBusters

Robots with medals

At the Yuma Test Grounds in Arizona, the autonomous robot, 5 feet long and modeled on a stick-insect, strutted out for a live-fire test and worked beautifully, he says. Every time it found a mine, blew it up and lost a limb, it picked itself up and readjusted to move forward on its remaining legs, continuing to clear a path through the minefield.

Finally it was down to one leg. Still, it pulled itself forward. Tilden was ecstatic. The machine was working splendidly.

The human in command of the exercise, however -- an Army colonel -- blew a fuse.

The colonel ordered the test stopped.

Why? asked Tilden. What's wrong?

The colonel just could not stand the pathos of watching the burned, scarred and crippled machine drag itself forward on its last leg.

This test, he charged, was inhumane.

The Washington Post has a fascinating article on how robots in the war field are being anthropomorphized. Soldiers show emotional attachments to particular robots, some models are considered to have personality, and some event get medals:

"When we first got there, our robot, his name was Frankenstein" says Sgt. Orlando Nieves, an EOD from Brooklyn. "He'd been in a couple of explosions and he was made of pieces and parts from other robots." Not only did the troops promote him to private first class, they awarded him an EOD badge -- a coveted honor. "It was a big deal. He was part of our team, one of us. He did feel like family."

The gist of the article seems to undercut attempts to actually add emotions and personality to robots: it seems that we as humans are pretty good at attributing those characteristics even when they aren't actually designed in.

I had a brief hint of the anthropomorphic attribution when I attended an iRobot talk a year ago. Some of the robots in the Washington Post article are iRobot's Packbots and the iRobot talk provided this fun factoid:

On April 8, 2004, Packbot 129 became the first packbot to be 'killed in action.' US soldiers managed to retrieve all of its parts and it is now framed for display.

Taking this one step further, the article mentions that UAV operators can now receive the Distinguished Flying Cross.

WashingtonPost: Bots on the Ground

Post a comment


tags.

related entries.

what is this?

This page contains a single entry from kwc blog posted on May 14, 2007 3:59 PM.

The previous post was Coulton and Scalzi: leveraging Internet fandom.

The next post is MotionBased: Beta Player is a nice upgrade.

Current entries can be found on the main page.