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sexta-feira, 30 de março de 2012

About war and robots

In what is defined in this planet as “last week”, the robot of the video below made a new record of maximum speed achieved by a robot moving with legs, the speed was 29 km/h (18 mph).

But what really got my attention was the objective of the company who developed this robot, “create a robot capable to better assist soldiers in a great range of missions”. In other words, it was not made to help people in everyday tasks, or who knows developing alternatives of transport (what about riding one of these to go to work, yes?), the robot was made for war.

I wanted to know more about the company behind the project (Boston Dynamics) what else they do and what other robots we gonna have to destroy if someday the robots make the revolution of the machines, like so many scientists, movies, books and nightmares warned us with so much inspiration.

At their website I met other robots, also created with military objectives. You can read below a short description of them, with links to video, links to know more and at the end my commentary about it all. Good nightmares.

LS3 - Legged Squad Support System
Developed with the objective to follow soldiers on foot, able to go where any soldier may need to go, it can carry 180kg (400 lbs) and with one energy charge can walk 32 km (20 miles) or operate for 24 hours. It can move by itself, has a navigation system based on cameras able to recognize and follow a leader, and also a GPS system. Video here. More about LS3 here.

Perhaps the most scary one of all their projects. It is a robot with human appearance, able to walk, crawl and even make some push ups (no, that is no joke). Their objective was to create a robot to test gears and equipment that will later on be used by human soldiers. Oh, yes, sure, I believe you Mister Pumpkin. Click here to see it in action. More information here.

It is a cousin of LS3, the difference is that this one was made with the objective to go not only a soldier may need to go, but also where an animal of the same size could go. It can run 6,5km/h (4 mph), walk in different types of terrain including mud, snow and sand, and it is also able to carry 150 kg (340 lbs). Video here. More info here.


Weighing 5 kg (11 pounds), this robot has the ability to jump 10 meter hight (30 feet). In one charge it can jump 25 times. This one the video is here, not as link, because it worth to see it jumping. To know more about SandFlea, click here.


This one, if turned into a toy, would be a huge success. It is able to walk in almost any terrain and can swim, but what would make it a successful toy is the fact that is remote controlled and you can see where it is going in a TV, since the robot is equipped with cameras, almost like a videogame. The range of the controller is 600 meters (2 thousand feet) and just to give you a comparison, a remote controlled car, or airplane, has a range of 10 meters (30 feet). To watch a video of RHex click here. More info about RHex here.

This robot was created with the objective to climb walls. It is pretty neat the way it looks like a gigantic insect, maybe if they put some antennas and give it an external look of a big cockroach it will be already a great menace to people that would run like there was no tomorrow if they see a cockroach of this size. Can you imagine the mess? Video here. More about RiSE here.

It is small, it can walk in almost any terrain and it looks like a robot of the Empire from Star Wars. Personally I think this one will be harder to kill when the machines decide do make their revolution, but they will need to change the battery, since now it only lasts 30 minutes. You can see it working in here. More about LittleDog here.


Despite everything being developed as weapons of war, and it means among other things that the final version of all this robots will include a machine gun and a self destruction function, it is important to say two things.

The first one is that, in almost all cases, scientific developments with military proposes end up later being transformed and became important things that change the life of everyone. Just to give two examples, one being the GPS, that among other things helps you to get to your destination, also helps missiles to get to their destination, and two, the internet that was not made to civil people watch videos of cats doing weird things in YouTube.

The second thing is that, even if the fact of a company make science with the objective of war is something that gets my attention, what could lead us to think that these people would be very sad if the world peace, dreamed by so many misses in everywhere, became real, technology is a tool that offers many possibilities and the choice of what to do with it depends heavily of what is inside the head of the people taking decisions.

The same way that nuclear energy can be used to obtain electricity, it can be used to build up bombs. The curious thing, however, is that a very good way to avoid a conflict is to make clear that anyone who tries to fight you, will have absolutely no chance of wining and it sometimes means be the first one to have a bomb, or the biggest army of the world, or who maybe an army of robots.

Whatever is the case, I don’t know how far this tug of war of fear is healthy. There is always a stupid person wishing strongly that everything go to hell, there is always a bunch of people so found to “get revenge on that thing that happened 400 years ago” and History shows that eventually this kind of stupid people reach power and then they do a lot of shit.

Imagine if a company like Apple was military. Imagine this kind of intellectual power focused in ways to make war and not in ways to create things to make your everyday life easier. Remember how the kind of products that they do are able to unite people all over the world, how in every part of the world they carry on some philosophy and meaning. We could also think about YouTube and in how it has became part of the culture of the world and how it is a tool to unite people, to make they interested in communicate and find out more about themselves and about the world.

What I’m trying to say is that military development helps to develop other things that can be important to society, but that is not the only way to achieve new technological steps, or changing, and more than anything, wide understanding of each other, people getting connect and learning about each other, making possible a real peace and not a peace based on fear.

It can sound very utopian, but I prefer to think in science looking to a future where the motivation to any study being “the possibility of war” would be just a joke about the way humans used to be, where GPS was really first invented to guide people through the city and the objective was always to make life less complicated.

Perhaps a real change in international politics, and also in the way the leaders of the world really “search for peace”, will only happen when people stop to be so afraid of each other and start to remember that no one wants to get into war, that no one wants to have his country or culture destroyed, that deep inside everyone just wants an opportunity to live in peace. Don’t you think?

Well, worse case scenario, we can say that all this is just some preparation in case we need to fight back if someday a alien invasion occur, being these aliens irrational and violent, yes? hahaha