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DARPA’s Next Generation Terminator-like Robot Unveiled

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Beware bloodbags: 7ft 4″ tall, 330 pound metal beast will eventually act autonomously

Steve Watson
July 12, 2013

DARPA, the technological arm of the Pentagon, unveiled its latest humanoid robot this week, demonstrating how the 7ft 4″ tall beast can dodge obstacles and act intelligently to stay upright, even when knocked off balance by heavy weights.

The robot, named ATLAS, presumably after the primordial Titan of astronomy and navigation who held up the celestial sphere, was designed by long time DARPA subsidiary Boston Dynamics.

“Articulated, sensate hands will enable Atlas to use tools designed for human use,” Boston Dynamics says. “Atlas includes 28 hydraulically actuated degrees of freedom, two hands, arms, legs, feet, and a torso.”

The robot’s head encompasses two hi-tech cameras and a laser range finder. At the moment, ATLAS is tethered to an off-board, electric power supply.

A video released by the company, as part of DARPA’s Virtual Robotics Challenge, shows the robot in action:

Six teams of engineers that made it through to the end stages of DARPA’s “competition”, will now all be given ATLAS as it was deemed to be the best robot for potentially “helping” the military.

The teams will ALL work on software algorithms for the robot. A statement on the DARPA website notes: “Like coaches starting with a novice player, the teams now have until late December 2013 to teach ATLAS the moves it will need to succeed.”

DAPRA expects the robot to be able to complete tasks including breaking through a wall, driving a car, removing debris blocking doors, climbing a ladder, finding and closing a valve, and connecting a fire hose.

Whichever teams of engineers perform the best in December will then be given the funding to further work on ATLAS, with the view of having the robot perform all the expected tasks autonomously, that is “intelligently” without supervision, during the challenge finals in late 2014.

The engineer teams are based at:

– The Florida Institute of Human & Machine Cognition in Pensacola, Fla.
– Worcester Polytecnic Institute in Massachusetts
– Massachusetts Institute of Technology
– TracLabs in Webster, Tex.
– The Jet Propulsion Laboratory
– Virginia Tech

In the video DARPA demostrates the advancement of ATLAS from its predecessor, the PETMAN robot, which not only looked human but also sweats to regulate body temperature.

A recent video showing PETMAN in action depicted the robot dressed up in a post-apocalyptic chem-bio suit with sensors embedded to detect hazardous chemicals.

Other videos charted the advancement of PETMAN. As it developed further, it began to look more and more human.

DARPA claims that the goal is to deploy the robots during natural disasters or other dangerous situations. Of course, critics believe the machines will inevitably end up being used by the military on the battlefield.

Numerous robotic experts are on record with their concerns that the Pentagon’s fleet of cyborgs is being developed with one primary goal in mind – to pursue “suspects” and kill large numbers of people.

Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, has repeatedly warned that the robots currently being developed under the auspices of DARPA will eventually be used to kill.

“Of course if it’s used for combat, it would be killing civilians as well as it’s not going to be able to discriminate between civilians and soldiers,” said Sharkey.

Award-winning military writer and former intelligence officer Lt. Col. Douglas Pryer also recently wrote an essay warning of the threat posed by remorseless “killer robots” that will be used to stalk and slaughter human targets in the near future.

In a 50-page report published last year, Human Rights Watch also warned that artificially intelligent robots let loose on the battlefield would inevitably commit war crimes.

Last year, experts at the prestigious University of Cambridge announced a project to conduct research into the “extinction-level risks” posed to humanity by artificially intelligent robots.

Flying drones that communicate with each other are also being developed for “hunting terrorists” and other “homeland security” purposes, as well as UAVs that could one day snatch humans off the street.

DARPA funded drones are already able to autonomously dodge obstacles and even fly into buildings through windows and doors.

DARPA also recently developed a robotic arm that can perform precise actions using tools, a huge leap forward in the evolution of robotics, but one that comes with potentially destructive implications.

As highlighted in the following video, the DARPA robotic arm can perform detailed tasks such as using a pair of tweezers to pick up objects.

Gill Pratt, a program manager at DARPA, told the New York Times that developing the ability to move like a human hand has a lot of important military uses.

Boston Dynamics also announced last year that it now has a robot that can run faster than the fastest human on the planet, with a flexible spine to help it “zigzag to chase and evade.”

At the time, Professor Sharkey commented “It’s going to be used for chasing people across the desert, I would imagine. I can’t think of many civilian applications – maybe for hunting, or farming, for rounding up sheep.”

Indeed, the Pentagon has, in the past, issued a request to contractors to develop teams of robots that can search for, detect and track “non-cooperative” humans in “pursuit/evasion scenarios”.

Issued in 2008, the request, called for a “Multi-Robot Pursuit System” to be operated by one person.

The proposal described the need to

“…develop a software/hardware suit that would enable a multi-robot team, together with a human operator, to search for and detect a non-cooperative human subject.

The main research task will involve determining the movements of the robot team through the environment to maximize the opportunity to find the subject, while minimizing the chances of missing the subject. If the operator is an active member of the search team, the software should minimize the chance that the operator may encounter the subject.”

It is seemingly important to the Pentagon that the operator should not have to come into contact with the person being chased down by the machines.

Professor Sharkey has previously warned that the world may be sleepwalking into a potentially lethal technocracy and has called for safeguards on such technology to be put into place.

In 2008, Professor Sharkey told listeners of the Alex Jones show:

“If you have an autonomous robot then it’s going to make decisions who to kill, when to kill and where to kill them. The scary thing is that the reason this has to happen is because of mission complexity and also so that when there’s a problem with communications you can send a robot in with no communication and it will decide who to kill, and that is really worrying to me.”

The professor also warned that such autonomous weapons could easily be used in the future by law enforcement officials in cites, pointing out that South Korean authorities are already planning to have a fully armed autonomous robot police force in their cities.

Paul Marks at The New Scientist pointed out such proposals are somewhat concerning, because they inevitably will be adapted for domestic purposes such as policing and crowd control.

“…how long before we see packs of droids hunting down pesky demonstrators with paralysing weapons? Or could the packs even be lethally armed?” Marks asks.

Marks interviewed Steve Wright, an expert on police and military technologies, from Leeds Metropolitan University, who commented:

“The giveaway here is the phrase ‘a non-cooperative human subject’.

What we have here are the beginnings of something designed to enable robots to hunt down humans like a pack of dogs. Once the software is perfected we can reasonably anticipate that they will become autonomous and become armed.

We can also expect such systems to be equipped with human detection and tracking devices including sensors which detect human breath and the radio waves associated with a human heart beat. These are technologies already developed.”

Indeed, noted as PHASE III on the Pentagon “Multi-Robot Pursuit System” proposal was the desire to have the robots developed to “intelligently and autonomously search”.

Boston Dynamics has enjoyed a long working relationship with DARPA, during which time it has also developed the rather frightening BigDog. This hydraulic quadruped robot can carry up to 340lb load, meaning it can be effectively weaponised, and recovers its balance even after sliding on ice and snow:

The Big Dog now also has an arm, and has been demonstrated picking up and throwing heavy objects significant distances:

The company also developed RiSE, a robot that climbs vertical terrain such as walls, trees and fences, using feet with micro-claws to climb on textured surfaces:

What do you think? Are these robots really being developed to help out Americans during earthquakes and hurricanes? Or is the military intent on another use for the machines?


Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.

This article was posted: Friday, July 12, 2013 at 12:42 pm

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