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Foster-Miller MAARS (Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System)  (Source: Wired's Danger Room)

  (Source: Wired's Danger Room)
Foster-Miller's MAARS system cuts down on friendly-fire accidents

The advancement of battlefield robots is progressing nicely at the Department of Defense. iRobot has already showcased its REDOWL-equipped PackBot which can detect enemy gunfire and the company's SUGV Early is a lightweight variant which is "backpackable."

Foster-Miller is upping the ante a bit with its new MAARS (Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System) robot which aims to eliminate – or at least drastically reduce -- friendly-fire accidents. The 350-pound MAARS uses sophisticated software and GPS positioning to determine where friendly soldiers are located on the battlefield. Once programmed into the MAARS, the robot's machine gun is prevented from aiming towards friendly positions.

According to the Danger Room, MAARS is likewise pre-programmed to not fire on its control station where a soldier controls the unit.

The MAARS is also highly configurable based on battlefield needs. The standard tracks can be swapped out for wheels should the unit need to operate strictly in urban environments. The M240B Medium Machine Gun can also be swapped out for a control arm to lift items (100 pound capacity) detect/defuse roadside bombs or drag wounded soldiers out harm's way.

"Foster-Miller is proud to introduce the new MAARS robot to the US Military personnel who risk their lives every day defending our freedom," stated Dr. William Ribich, President of QinetiQ's Technology Solutions Group.  "The challenge before us now isn’t technological in nature but rather the widespread training of our forces to use this greatly enhanced robotic capability."

Any machine that can keep human soldiers out of direct combat situations is welcomed by the military, so the upgraded fail-safes included with the MAARS is a welcome addition.

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By bighairycamel on 10/9/2007 1:42:19 PM , Rating: 5
Eliminating friendly fire is a good thing, but if it were me, and I was going to die on the battlefield, being "killed by armed robot" would be a pretty cool way to go.

RE: Meh
By edpsx on 10/9/2007 1:47:18 PM , Rating: 2
Saw this thing on TV awhile back. Best thing about it is that it puts all the rounds in the same spot until you tell it to move. So unlike a soldier spreading bullets all over there place with a large machine gun, this can do it accurately.

RE: Meh
By Polynikes on 10/9/2007 6:07:30 PM , Rating: 3
I bet a lot of soldiers and Marines would tell you they're still pretty damn good at putting rounds on target accurately. :)

Being a former Marine infantryman, let me tell you the equivalent machinegun to the one that robot has, the SAW, is not hard to fire accurately.

RE: Meh
By feraltoad on 10/9/07, Rating: 0
RE: Meh
By RMSe17 on 10/10/2007 9:32:45 AM , Rating: 2
thats not cool.

RE: Meh
By feraltoad on 11/6/2007 3:29:32 AM , Rating: 2
No fans of Full Metal Jacket here I guess.

RE: Meh
By helios220 on 10/9/2007 2:15:49 PM , Rating: 3
Eliminating friendly fire is a good thing, but if it were me, and I was going to die on the battlefield, being "killed by armed robot" would be a pretty cool way to go.

You can always change your name to "Sarah Connor" and see how it goes for you.

RE: Meh
By DEVGRU on 10/9/2007 3:16:28 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, but Sarah Conner was never actually killed by a machine, was she?

RE: Meh
By rtrski on 10/9/2007 3:22:51 PM , Rating: 2
Several of them were, in the first movie. Just not the right one.

RE: Meh
By helios220 on 10/9/2007 3:27:34 PM , Rating: 2
The protagonist Sarah Connor was not, however there were several Sarah Connors that got smoked in the first Terminator. The Terminator took out all of the Sarah Connors in the phone book... or almost all.

RE: Meh
By murphyslabrat on 10/10/2007 2:14:47 PM , Rating: 2
What if she was killed by a robot in the future? It's been awhile since I saw "The Terminator" last, but I am pretty sure that the lover-boy in the first one said she died, right?

The Simpsons was right.
By MrPickins on 10/9/2007 2:24:13 PM , Rating: 6
"The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea. They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots."


RE: The Simpsons was right.
By FITCamaro on 10/9/2007 2:57:09 PM , Rating: 2
Glad the company I work for specializes in exactly that then. ;)

RE: The Simpsons was right.
By helios220 on 10/9/2007 3:30:42 PM , Rating: 3
You work for Cyberdyne Systems as well? ;)

RE: The Simpsons was right.
By Amiga500 on 10/9/2007 3:51:49 PM , Rating: 4
My problem with this is it removes one of the principal obstacles to a hawkish government/dictator (and I'm referring to ANY hypothetical country here) invading another country, or seizing power etc etc.

That obstacle is manpower, in a democracy the question is will i get re-elected, and for a dictator (or wannabe dictator), its where do I get the people, and how many do I dare give guns to (after all, a robot isn't going to overthrow its master just yet).

Basically, I'm worried that the proliferation of these robots will make it easier for those in power to make the decision to kill others and not worry about the consequences. Or it will make it easier for those in possession to obtain power through these.

RE: The Simpsons was right.
By MrPickins on 10/9/2007 5:32:51 PM , Rating: 3
Didn't you read the quote?

You'll still need men to build and maintain the robots...

RE: The Simpsons was right.
By Amiga500 on 10/9/2007 6:18:50 PM , Rating: 2
If they aren't in harms way then you don't need a continual supply of manpower, and you don't need to explain to mum, dad, wife or husband why their son/daughter/husband/wife is dead.

RE: The Simpsons was right.
By vortmax on 10/10/2007 12:32:04 PM , Rating: 2
I'm hoping these won't be sold to any of those hypothetical countries, but if history is correct, it will probably happen...

RE: The Simpsons was right.
By wordsworm on 10/25/2007 12:20:08 AM , Rating: 2
My problem with this is it removes one of the principal obstacles to a hawkish government/dictator (and I'm referring to ANY hypothetical country here) invading another country, or seizing power etc etc.
You mean like what George Bush II and the USA are doing now? Luckily for the world, Iraq and Afghanistan haven't given up without a good fight. If they had, then I can't help but think that both Iran and North Korea would have puppet governments put in place that dance to the tune the USA dictates to it rather than being given the chance to evolve on their own.

The real danger to US troops is that if a computer can figure out how to not target American troops, then an enemy computer can be programmed to do the same thing.

Quite frankly, the real obstacle we're talking about removing is people's objection to their friends and family dying. I think with this element removed, America would be in the very real danger of losing all touch with the consequences of war. The public would simply lose interest beyond the financial ramifications. Even so, inevitably, manufacturing machines is a lot cheaper than training and feeding troops. They won't complain about lengthy deployments. Even in Michael Moore's film, I don't think he gave a damn about the Iraqi casualties of war. His only concern was the safety of American troops.

Getting there...
By Egglick on 10/9/2007 2:01:30 PM , Rating: 2

It's not quite on the level of the T1 just yet, but getting there. Wonder what they'll call the defense system which controls these robots...

RE: Getting there...
By FITCamaro on 10/9/2007 2:26:53 PM , Rating: 2

RE: Getting there...
By Master Kenobi on 10/9/2007 3:00:13 PM , Rating: 3

RE: Getting there...
By FITCamaro on 10/9/2007 4:14:27 PM , Rating: 2
I liked the Robocop movies... :(

Besides that sounds like a dildo that won't get the job done.

RE: Getting there...
By Amiga500 on 10/9/2007 3:46:12 PM , Rating: 2

or SpaceGrid

yeah, I'd go with SpaceGrid

By Souka on 10/9/07, Rating: 0
RE: uhm....
By Aiserou on 10/9/2007 2:05:33 PM , Rating: 2
Your forgot this part:
Once programmed into the MAARS, the robot's machine gun is prevented from aiming towards friendly positions.

It doesn't say that it targets civilians, it says it doesn't target friendlies. How is that possibly a bad thing?

RE: uhm....
By FITCamaro on 10/9/2007 2:23:49 PM , Rating: 1
But his way of saying it is how a liberal would present it.

Your way of saying it is how it actually is.

Which do you think will be the one most people remember?

RE: uhm....
By soydios on 10/9/2007 2:06:26 PM , Rating: 2
The robot is not autonomous. The GPS hoopla makes extra sure that the operator doesn't fire on friendly units or himself, possibly having mistakenly identified the target because they only have the robot's sensors at their disposal, instead of Mark 1 Mod 0 eyeballs.

RE: uhm....
By Frallan on 10/10/2007 3:07:13 AM , Rating: 2
Does it have a "Broken Arrow" command that blasts all over the place? Hmm just realized its probably called something else - the command that gives your supprt the goahead to blast the own positions because youre getting overrun.

Scary thought
By kontorotsui on 10/9/2007 5:29:54 PM , Rating: 1
I just hope they don't load Windows on THAT, you don't want it to go crazy due to some buffer overflow.

RE: Scary thought
By vortmax on 10/10/2007 12:34:20 PM , Rating: 2
The BSOD would take on a whole new meaning...

RE: Scary thought
By murphyslabrat on 10/10/2007 2:53:05 PM , Rating: 2
As long as it doesn't start yelling, "Danger WIll Robinson. Danger!"

Have to stop playing computer games
By Anosh on 10/9/2007 1:54:22 PM , Rating: 2
You know when you've crossed the line when reading the title you go:

"oh so they have different colors in the game then or what?"

By rcsinfo on 10/9/2007 2:52:03 PM , Rating: 2
I'm glad I'm not the only one. I was thinking, "who plays with bots in BF2142?" after I saw that headline.

By RMSe17 on 10/10/2007 9:30:11 AM , Rating: 2
I hope the enemy is not smart enough to break these protective measures of targeting. (or reverse them)

RE: interesting...
By murphyslabrat on 10/10/2007 2:50:41 PM , Rating: 2
Quite simple to do, at least in the event of having taken a US position, just carry the GPS transceiver with you. Voila, no robo-butts shooting at me now! Or, just camp that position and wait for the soldiers to respawn! The turrets won't even shoot at you, cause you're in a friendly position!

Seriously, though, it needs to be flexible. Like, as opposed to a "can't shoot that way" system, just give a warning on the heads-up display that there is a friendly position in your line-of-fire.

Kind of like the OICW rifle, if an enemy stole a US soldiers uniform, then they are, in essence, invincible to anything short of traditional grenades (as the internal grenade launcher will not fire either). Or, as was mentioned earlier, what if you need to defend a friendly position that is being over-run? Kinda screwed there.

BTW, this is not to say that I am against anti-friendly-fire mechanisms; just that, like any other computer system, can be exploited. I consider it my duty to somehow "break" any game I play. Only here, it gets more serious, as lives are at stake.

not fair?
By jmunjr on 10/10/2007 1:21:47 AM , Rating: 1
I am all for technology to get the advantage in war, but when you eliminate the possibility of human casualties from the equation only on one side, it seems like an unfair situation..

With no threat of loss of life, nations with this technology may be more willing to go to battle/war.. Think about it, if we had this tech in Vietnam, nobody would have complained, regardless of our success. No protests, no peace movements, no LSD...

RE: not fair?
By rdeegvainl on 10/10/2007 7:21:14 AM , Rating: 2

By Necaradan666 on 10/10/2007 10:16:28 AM , Rating: 2
Thats a mean looking machine

"Death Is Very Likely The Single Best Invention Of Life" -- Steve Jobs
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