The Department of Defense wants you to design a pack of robots that would hunt humans. Or, as they put it, “search for and detect a non-cooperative human subject”. While the project brings to mind Terminators, there are also non-terrifying uses for these robots, including search and rescue missions. The robots should be about 100 kilograms or less, provide immediate feedback, and defer to a human operator in the event of a difficult decision. This project presents some interesting challenges for robot designers. They’ll need to consider several key issues, like robot cooperation and decision-making abilities. We knew it was only a matter of time before the DoD turned the Grand Challenge into Death Race.
[via Warren Ellis]
Usually, when someone mentions military drones, we think of something much smaller and less intimidating than this monster. This is an Airforce Phantom II, retrofitted to be a computer controlled killing machine. Able to carry 18,000 pounds of stuff that goes boom, a single computer can control up to 6 of these in formation.
Sounds scary doesn’t it? Actually, though these are capable of being offensive, they are mainly used for target practice. These are decommissioned units that have been fixed up and modified to be radio controlled.
British computer hacker [Gary McKinnon] lost his final appeal to block his extradition to the U.S. He stands accused of hacking into almost 100 U.S. military and NASA computers from his girlfriend’s aunt’s house in London over a four year period by the U.S. government. If convicted of the crimes in a U.S. court, he could face up to 70 years imprisonment. [Gary McKinnon] freely admitted to hacking into the computers, but claimed that he did it out of curiosity, not out of malice or any terroristic aims. He was looking for information on UFOs. The U.S. government claimed that in addition to hacking into the computers, he also stole 950 passwords and erased important files. [McKinnon’s] next move will be to appeal to the European Court, and if unsuccessful, he will have no other option but to stand trial in the U.S. court system.
As purveyors of a fine hacks, we often get pitched on what are generally considered very bad ideas. Luckily, most of these ideas die on the drawing board due to a lack of time and energy or maybe having a shred of moral accountability. There’s nothing that government funding can’t fix though. Popular Science has put together a gallery of The World’s Spookiest Weapons. It’s a who’s who of real and speculative engineering that could lead to our eventual destruction. Opening with the atomic bomb, it moves quickly into more bizarre territory, everything from heat rays, to rail guns, to gassing people with elephant tranquilizers. Our personal favorite is The Rods from God. Imagine getting smote by a precisely targeted metal power pole dropped from space that has accelerated to 36,000 feet per second thanks solely to gravity. What a wondrous world we live in.
This last weekend we got a chance to check out ATLAS Devices‘ latest version of their powered rope ascender. You probably saw their first generation device in the news earlier in the year. It was originally built for a design competition, but they’re now on generation 3. The earliest version used a capstan style winder, but newer versions have a far more simple/elegant design. The original had a ton of thrust and needle bearings that were hard to keep in adjustment. The new design is lighter, less abrasive to the rope, and easier to use.
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