Not to alarm you, but the robot dogs now have sniper rifles

Not to alarm you, but the robot dogs now have sniper rifles
(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

We haven’t checked in on SKYNET and the coming robot revolution for a while, but there has been yet another leap forward in potentially lethal robotic technology. Unveiled in Washington, DC last weekend, a new robotic “dog” was on display, but this time it didn’t come from Boston Dynamics. The similarities are significant, but this dog is the product of Ghost Robotics, a Philadelphia robotics company that provides “solutions for commercial and military partners.” Of course, there is one striking difference between this robotic dog and the previous ones we’ve looked at here. Boston Dynamics does not (at least not yet, to my knowledge) offer an actual sniper rifle as an optional accessory. This one does, and it’s fully functional. (New York Post)

A robot dog armed with a sniper rifle was unveiled this week in Washington, D.C. at the annual meeting of the Association of the United States Army.

The robot, developed by Ghost Robotics, carries a SWORD Defense Systems Special Purpose Unmanned Rifle (SPUR).

“Latest lethality 6.5 #creedmoor sniper payload from @SWORDINT. Check out the latest partner payloads @AUSAorg Wash DC. Keeping US and allied #sof #warfighter equipped with the latest innovations,” Ghost Robotics tweeted Monday, alongside a photo of the “dog.”

So while Ghost Robotics makes the dog, S.W.O.R.D International makes the “Special Purpose Unmanned Rifle” (SPUR!) and mounts it on the dog, along with the remote control equipment required to operate it. Here’s a picture of the beast so you can judge for yourself. The similarities between this dog and the Boston Dynamics model may be unavoidable because this is probably the most stable configuration for a four-legged robot that anyone has come up with yet.

S.W.O.R.D. International

S.W.O.R.D International proudly boasts that the SPUR! is capable of using standard 7.62×51 NATO cartridges and can fire on targets at ranges up to 1,200 meters away. Its sensors operate in both day and night conditions, offering a lot of flexibility on the battlefield.

I can definitely see the usefulness of a weapon like this in combat. It would vastly reduce the exposure and danger to our troops if this dog can be sent into a hotspot in advance and begin taking out threats. Depending on the background and training of the enemy, the sight of a robotic dog blasting away at them might be enough to cause them to flee. I’m sure I’d get out of the way if I saw it coming.

I know the one question that most of you are already asking. Does it have any AI and how long will it be before it turns on us, right? Well, Ghost Robotics CEO Jiren Parikh told reporters, “There is a human controlling the weapon, there is no autonomy or AI.” That’s something of a relief, I suppose. I mean, the operator will presumably be one of our trained troops, so if they are shooting anyone, they could have done it up close and personal anyway, though the risk would be higher.

But let’s face it. There’s no AI on this beast today. But the question is already being asked and people are thinking about it. The day is coming when this thing (or another model close to it) will start coming with an Artificial Intelligence option. That’s when things begin to get interesting. We already have some armed drones that have AI that takes over when they lose the signal back to their controller and can still attempt to complete the mission. Why couldn’t the same go for this sniper dog?

The Air Force is already evaluating this robot. In May, they began testing an unarmed version at Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base. At this point, it seems inevitable that robot warfare is already upon us. And it’s only going to become more common in the future.

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