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Killer bot? Terrifying Robot Dog Equipped with a 6.5mm Sniper Rifle Unveiled at the US Army Trade Show

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A robotic dog design armed with a 6.5mm Creedmoor sniper rifle capable of hitting targets at a range of 3,940 meters has been unveiled at the US Army trade show.

The Special Purpose Unmanned Rifle (SPUR) is the brainchild of Philadelphia-based Ghost Robotics and Sparks, Nevada weapons manufacturer SWORD International.

SPUR is placed on top of one of Ghost Robotics’ existing “quadrupedal unmanned ground vehicle” designs and can be remotely instructed to load, unload and fire its gun.

The firms have yet to reveal the exact configuration of the weapon, nor how much ammunition the machine can carry or its reload rate.

However, tests have shown that the 6.5mm cartridges used in the Creedmoor rifle offer greater range than the 7.62 x 51mm cartridges currently used by US forces.

It is also currently unclear how much each robot unit and SPUR attachment will cost to purchase and maintain.

Arming robots with SPUR – while arguably an inevitable development not so different from other unmanned ground weapons – will likely still spark controversy.

By contrast, competitor Boston Dynamics — known for their often-dancing robot dog “Spot” — has committed to never arming their bots with weapons.

And the prospect of weaponized robot dogs turning on and killing people was brought to uneasy life in the 2017 Black Mirror episode “Metalhead.”

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A robotic dog design armed with a 6.5mm Creedmoor sniper rifle (shown) has been unveiled at the U.S. military’s trade show (shown) capable of accurately hitting targets at a range of 3,940 meters.

Arming robots with SPUR - while arguably an inevitable development not so different from other unmanned weapons - is likely to still spark controversy.  The prospect of robotic dogs turning on and killing people was brought to uneasy life in a 2017 Black Mirror episode

Arming robots with SPUR – while arguably an inevitable development not so different from other unmanned weapons – is likely to still spark controversy. The prospect of robotic dogs turning on and killing people was brought to uneasy life in a 2017 Black Mirror episode

SPOT IS A ‘PACIFICST’

While SPUR may make an effort to join the battlefield, Ghost Robotics’ more famous rival, Boston Dynamics, has said they condemn any application of their Spot dog that even appears to promote “violence, harm, or intimidation.”

The company made the comments in February, after New York-based start-up MSCHF (pronounced “evil”) mounted a Spot machine with a paintball gun and let the public use it to shoot down an art gallery.

Nevertheless, Boston Dynamics doesn’t seem to have the same concerns about police and enforcement applications – already using Spot as a pair of remote eyes in dangerous situations and to patrol Singapore’s parks during COVID-19.

‘Thanks to its very capable sensors, the SPUR can operate under all kinds of conditions, both during the day and at night’, the developers announced at the army fair.

“The SWORD Defense Systems SPUR is the future of the unmanned weapons system – and that future is now,” she added.

An advantage to giving an armed robot a four-legged design, such as that of SPUR, is the stability this four-legged arrangement provides.

“If 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 me. The War Zone last year.

Mr Parikh further explained that his company is working to ensure that their robots can continue to function even if some of their built-in sensors fail.

“We’re modifying it to make it like a mammal. Our robot, if you see it climbing stairs or walking around or running, we turn off all the sensors,” he said.

‘It’s just feeling. It is completely blind. The reason we do that is because if a war fighter or a mining company – if someone uses our robot – [it] could have operated better 99.99% of the time.’

In a similar vein, the SPUR module appears to be equipped with its own sighting system on top, allowing operators to aim at the target chosen by the rifle.

The 'Special Purpose Unmanned Rifle' (SPUR, pictured) is the brainchild of Philadelphia-based Ghost Robotics and weapons manufacturer SWORD International of Sparks, Nevada

The ‘Special Purpose Unmanned Rifle’ (SPUR, pictured) is the brainchild of Philadelphia-based Ghost Robotics and weapons manufacturer SWORD International of Sparks, Nevada

SPUR is placed on top of one of Ghost Robotics' existing

SPUR is placed on top of one of Ghost Robotics’ existing “quadrupedal unmanned ground vehicle” designs and can be remotely instructed to load, unload and fire its gun

The United States Air Force has reportedly expressed interest in the ability to remotely control robotic dogs from central command facilities through interfaces similar in design to commercial virtual reality headsets.

Officers want to use the machines for perimeter security, reconnaissance and urban warfare — and to access spaces that may be too small, cramped or dangerous for a human soldier to navigate safely.

“These dogs will be an extra pair of eyes and ears when processing large amounts of data in strategic locations at Tyndall Air Force Base,” Air Force Major Jordan Criss said in a statement last year following a test with the robots.

He added: “They will be a huge improvement for our defenders and provide flexibility in the placement and response of our staff.”

Ghost Robotics is no stranger to collaborating on potential defense and security applications from their bots — and is involved in partnerships with companies including defense contractor Honeywell and the ARES Security Corporation.

Reactions on Twitter to the reveal of the SPUR-equipped robots have been mixed, but with more concern than approval.

“Black Mirror is a cautionary series, not a blueprint for the future,” Kate Paul Dillon wrote on the social media platform.

Other users said the robot would be a good ‘doggo’ for the murderous robots from the Terminator sci-fi franchise.

The Association of the United States Army’s 2021 Annual meeting and exhibition was held at the Washington Convention Center, Washington DC, October 11-13.

Reactions on Twitter to the reveal of the SPUR-equipped robots have been mixed — but with more concern than approval.  Pictured: some reactions

Reactions on Twitter to the reveal of the SPUR-equipped robots have been mixed, but with more concern than approval. Pictured: some reactions

“Black Mirror is a cautionary series, not a blueprint for the future,” Kate Paul Dillon wrote on the social media platform.

Other users said the robot would be a good 'doggo' for the murderous robots from the Terminator sci-fi franchise

Other users said the robot would be a good ‘doggo’ for the murderous robots from the Terminator sci-fi franchise

BOSTON DYNAMICS’ SPOT

Boston Dynamics first showcased SpotMini, the most advanced robotic dog ever made, in a video posted in November 2017.

The company, best known for Atlas, its 5 feet 9 (1.7 meters) humanoid robot, has unveiled a new “lightweight” version of its robot Spot Mini.

The robot dog was shown trotting around a yard, with the promise of “more information coming soon from the notoriously secretive company.”

“SpotMini is a small four-legged robot that fits comfortably in an office or at home,” the company says on its website.

It weighs 25 kg (55 lb), or 30 kg (66 lb) including the robot arm.

SpotMini is all-electric and can last about 90 minutes on a charge, depending on what it does, the company says, boasting “SpotMini is the quietest robot we’ve built.”

SpotMini was first unveiled in 2016, and an earlier version of the mini version of Spot with a strange extendable neck has shown that it helps around the house.

The company’s previous video shows the robot leaving the company’s headquarters and walking towards a house.

There it helps load a dishwasher and carries a can to the trash.

He also encounters a fallen banana peel at one point and falls dramatically – but uses his extendable neck to push himself back up.

SpotMini is one of the quietest robots we’ve ever built, the company says because of its electric motors.

“It has several sensors, including depth cameras, a solid state gyro (IMU) and proprioception sensors in the limbs.

‘These sensors help with navigation and mobile manipulation.

‘SpotMini performs some tasks autonomously, but often uses a human for high-level guidance.’

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