As robots become more advanced with each passing month and the trend shows no sign of slowing down, several militaries are considering the use of automated weapons systems deployed on robots to work in conjunction with conventional armed forces. And now South Korea has deployed killer robots along the border of its demilitarized zone to help ground troops.
The units cost approximately $345,000 or 400,000 won and have the capabilities of detecting unrecognized facial features and movements in those around it. If a feature is unrecognized a controller is alerted, and this controller can indicate whether or not the person is hostile or not. If the target is hostile, then the robot is informed so it can target the person and open fire.
The first death by robot happened in 1981 when Kenji Uruda was accidentally pushed into a grinding machine by a hydraulic arm when the device was powered when it wasn’t supposed to be. The first person intentionally killed by a robot is largely unknown and often argued over. What is known is that out of twenty of the top Taliban leaders, eleven have been killed by these partially autonomous machines. With the high rate of success these robots provide, they are considered an asset to military forces.
So will the release of new robots in South Korea to kill intruders be any different? Maybe not. But each new death by robotic sentinels makes the industry more promising to researchers and investors. And with South Korea’s massive decline in population, soon the army won’t be able to keep up with troop demands. If this causes a conflict between North and South Korean troops, the South Koreans will most certainly have to consider investing more heavily in robots.
Is there really any possibility of a robot war in the future? Unlike the battlefield of the Terminator movies where humans largely have to fight against robotic forces, a more likely scenario would be humans fighting alongside robots as they do today. And even the robots deployed in the field would largely have to take orders from humans on the ground. Artificial intelligence is nowhere near comprehensive enough to improvise their way through complex missions.
Then again, look how far we’ve come in twenty years. In 1990 the technology saw only a primitive precursor to today’s ASIMO in robotics, while in such a short time we went from extremely primitive machines that could only perform very few tasks to robots capable of recognizing not only faces, but emotions and then reacting in ways designed to manipulate those emotions. They’ve also been programmed to kill. What direction is robotics going to head in the next few years? No doubt there will be more military robots, considering the massive amount of funding these programs receive. And no doubt these robots will make today’s models look just as primitive as the RC car type devices of the 90s.