We have all seen movies and TV series about killer robots. But until the futuristic drama, Black Mirror premiered on Netflix, we had never before seen a terrifying vision of crazed machines similar to the design of real real-life robots – that is, those Boston Dynamics “Robot Dog” that so impressed the world with his balance, speed, and dexterity, but also inevitably make you wonder: what if a robbery of this nature were to chase me?
This is what “Metalhead” is all about, a gripping episode of Black Mirror that aired on December 29, 2017. Episode 5 of season 4 deals with a post-apocalyptic future in which robot dogs are “hunting” human survivors. The machines are prepared for everything, from controlling a car to recharging with the sun. However, perhaps the most disturbing moment is when one of the overturned robot dogs regains its balance, as that is something we have seen Boston Dynamics robots do. But as always, the reality is stranger than fiction. And now, they have presented a quadruped robot equipped with a weapon.
“Metalhead” Robot Dog in real life
A robot dog armed with a 6.5mm Creedmoor sniper rifle capable of accurately hitting targets 1,200 meters away has been unveiled at the US Army trade show. The weapon, Special Purpose Unmanned Rifle (SPUR), has been designed by Ghost Robotics company and weapons manufacturer SWORD International Inc. Installed on top of one of the SPUR quadruped robots, you can remotely receive instructions to load, unload and fire your rifle.
Designers have yet to reveal the exact configuration of the weapon, how much ammunition the machine is capable of carrying, or its reload rate. However, tests have shown that the 6.5mm ammunition used in the Creedmoor rifle offers an increase in range over the 7.62x51mm cartridges currently used by US forces. It is also not currently clear how much each SPUR robot and the accessory unit will cost to buy and maintain. And unsurprisingly, the robot dog from Ghost Robotics has sparked a lot of controversies.
For example, competitor Boston Dynamics, known for its robot dog ‘Spot’, has vowed never to arm any of its machines with weapons. And, as we have previously discussed, Black Mirror already warned of the dangers of these machines in the Black Mirror episode ‘Metalhead’.
“Due to its high-capacity sensors, the SPUR can operate in a variety of conditions, both day and night,” the developers announced at the army trade show. “SWORD Defense Systems SPUR is the future of the unmanned weapons system, and that future is now.”
An advantage of the SPUR armored robot comes from the stability offered by this quadruped arrangement.
“When our robots move and you push them, these forces are calculated at 2,000 calculations per second per leg, ” Ghost Robotics CEO and founder Jiren Parikh told The War Zone last year.
Parikh went on to explain that his company is working to ensure its robots can continue to function even if some of its sensors fail. Similarly, the SPUR appears to be equipped with its own overhead sighting system to allow operators to aim at the rifle’s chosen target. Worst of all, the US Air Force has expressed interest in the possibility of operating robot dogs remotely from central command facilities using interfaces similar in design to commercial virtual reality headsets.
They seek to use the machines for perimeter security operations, exploration, and urban warfare, as well as to open access to spaces that could be too small, narrow, or dangerous for a human soldier to safely access.
“These dogs will be an additional pair of eyes and ears as they compute vast amounts of data at strategic locations throughout Tyndall Air Force Base,” Air Force Major Jordan Criss said in a statement last year after a try these robots. “They will be a huge enhancement to our defenses and allow flexibility in posting and response from our staff.”
This is not the first time that Ghost Robotics has explored potential defense and security applications for its robots, and participates in partnerships with private companies including Honeywell and ARES Security Corporation. And it also seems that we do not learn from the fictional visions that some series and movies recreate. Black Mirror or Terminator are clear examples of what could await us in the near future.
Are you in favor of machines being equipped with weapons? Will the Black Mirror chapter “Metalhead” be a reality?