Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The veteran explosives technician looming over Bogosh was visibly upset. He insisted he did not want a new robot. He wanted Scooby-Doo back.

Joel Garreau writes in the Washington Post about soldiers and their robots:

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have become an unprecedented field study in human relationships with intelligent machines. These conflicts are the first in history to see widespread deployment of thousands of battle bots. Flying bots range in size from Learjets to eagles. Some ground bots are like small tanks. Others are the size of two-pound dumbbells, designed to be thrown through a window to scope out the inside of a room. Bots search caves for bad guys, clear roads of improvised explosive devices, scoot under cars to look for bombs, spy on the enemy and, sometimes, kill humans.

It's common for a soldier to cut out a magazine picture of a woman, tape it to the antenna and name the bot something like "Cheryl," says Paul Varian, a former Army chief warrant officer who has served three tours in Iraq with the Robotic Systems Joint Project Office. "There's an awful lot of picture-taking," he says. One guy who married just before deployment wanted his wife to see the gal who was his constant companion. It was a PackBot. "One Guard unit got so attached to a development model that we gave it to them. It was pretty beat up. They put it in a place of honor in their museum."

Via Reason