Those following the technological developments of research firms in the area of automated robotic sentries have likely been wowed by the development of such models as the Honda Big Dog All Terrain Robot, and the LATRAP automated sentry turret. But one other sentry bot model developed by students at the University of Oklahoma has a bit of a more unusual look to it. The ATVAutonomous Sm is a sentry vehicle designed in the image of a 1955 short story entitled “The Hood Maker” by acclaimed science fiction author Philip K. Dick.
The bot utilizes sensor control system with the assistance of a basic obstacle avoidance system similar to that of a typical household cleaning robot or an automatic door system at the supermarket, but instead of cleaning up dust or opening doors for friendly customers, this sentry drone is designed to target intruders across a variety of terrains.
The robot is first programmed to follow a predesignated patrol route, which it follows until it reads a heat signature or other indicators of human presence where there should be no presence, at which point it alerts the command center and waits for further instructions. As it follows its patrol route, an operator designates the details behind the machine’s patrol, giving commands such as “stop and wait thirty seconds” and “honk your horn once you reach this point.” Though it does not have any specific weapons systems on-board, it could in theory be equipped with them at some point if the “patrol” robot found military use. After the patrol has been first mapped out, the operator takes his hands off the controls and lets the robot perform activities based purely on a reactionary automatic basis. The possible applications for this device are areas where human presence is dangerous without protective gear, or large areas where human patrolling is unfeasible or more expensive than a relatively cheap automated system. Once an emergency status has been declared, the robot can either be told to run a predesignated reaction program (for example, follow intruders and record their actions or spray incapacitating ordinance such as pepper-spray) or it can then be taken into the control of the operator, who can speak through the device at potential intruders, assess the situation through an array of cameras, or get the device out of harm’s way.
And with a world of systems designed to propel devices forward, it’s hard to imagine a simpler system being designed than an all terrain vehicle. The vehicle itself is designed to work on virtually any terrain with minimal interaction by the driver. As a result, the ATVautonomous is both faster than a human being can run, and is capable of moving across terrains with far more dexterity than most traditional robots with little or no problem.
With the military becoming increasingly automated and depending more heavily on robots every day, is there a future for systems such as the ATVautonomous? While systems similar to it are likely to be developed, this particular model was created primarily to show what can be done with a little ingenuity, a lot of free time, and a brilliant team working in cohesion to solve problems and push us into the future.