Supervisors in San Francisco voted Tuesday to give city police the ability to use potentially lethal, remote-controlled robots n emergency situations — following an emotionally charged debate that reflected divisions on the politically liberal board over support for law enforcement.
The vote was 8-3, with the majority agreeing to grant police the option despite strong objections from civil liberties and other police oversight groups. Opponents said the authority would lead to the further militarization of a police force already too aggressive with poor and minority communities.
Supervisor Connie Chan, a member of the committee that forwarded the proposal to the full board, said she understood concerns over use of force but that “according to state law, we are required to approve the use of these equipments. So here we are, and it’s definitely not a easy discussion.”
The San Francisco Police Department said it does not have pre-armed robots and has no plans to arm robots with guns. But the department could deploy robots equipped with explosive charges “to contact, incapacitate, or disorient violent, armed, or dangerous suspect” when lives are at stake, SFPD spokesperson Allison Maxie said in a statement.
“Robots equipped in this manner would only be used in extreme circumstances to save or prevent further loss of innocent lives,” she said.
Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are developing a group of robots with built-in intelligence that are capable of building almost anything, including buildings, vehicles, and even replicating themselves into bigger robots.
This innovative research was published in the journal Nature Communications Engineering in a study authored by CBA doctoral student Amira Abdel-Rahman, Professor and CBA Director Neil Gershenfeld, and three others.
The researchers revealed they are working with the aviation industry, car companies, and NASA on the new technology.
“The new work, from MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA), builds on years of research, including recent studies demonstrating that objects such as a deformable airplane wing and a functional racing car could be assembled from tiny identical lightweight pieces — and that robotic devices could be built to carry out some of this assembly work,” MIT announced on Tuesday, Nov. 22.
The San Francisco Police Department is proposing a new policy that would give robots the license to kill, as reported earlier by Mission Local (via Engadget). The draft policy, which outlines how the SFPD can use military-style weapons, states robots can be “used as a deadly force option when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and outweighs any other force option.”
As reported by Mission Local, members of the city’s Board of Supervisors Rules Committee have been reviewing the new equipment policy for several weeks. The original version of the draft didn’t include any language surrounding robots’ use of deadly force until Aaron Peskin, the Dean of the city’s Board of Supervisors, initially added that “robots shall not be used as a Use of Force against any person.”
However, the SFPD returned the draft with a red line crossing out Peskin’s addition, replacing it with the line that gives robots the authority to kill suspects. According to Mission Local, Peskin eventually decided to accept the change because “there could be scenarios where deployment of lethal force was the only option.” San Francisco’s rules committee unanimously approved a version of the draft last week, which will face the Board of Supervisors on November 29th.
Recent footage of a Chinese drone dropping off a dog-like robot with a machine gun strapped to its back has gone viral, providing a glimpse at the future of unmanned warfare.
Video clips, which were originally published by Chinese media earlier this month, showed large unmanned aircraft system with eight propellers hovering in to drop off a robot dog. The robot has its legs tucked in as it’s dropped off, but begins to unfold its legs and stand upright and walk.
As the robot dog begins to move, it is evident that it has some type of light-machine gun mounted on its back. The weapon appears to be a QBB-95 or QBB-97, which are both drum-magazine fed weapons used by Chinese forces.
Another video appears to show the same drone-based robot dog delivery from a different view.
The Drive reported the footage appeared earlier this month on an account on the Chinese social media app Weibo named “Kestrel Defense Blood Wing.” The Weibo-verified account appears to be affiliated with the Chinese armsmaker known as Kestrel Defense.
Another video went viral this summer showing a Chinese robot dog actually aiming and firing at targets on a range. In the video, the robot had to move its entire body and take several seconds to fine tune to aim the gun and it would reel back under the recoil of sustained automatic fire.
The U.S. military has also been developing dog robots. The U.S. robotmanufacturer Ghost Robotics has also showcased a dog robot equipped with a 6.5 mm rifle pod.
The Netherlands deployed its first lethal autonomous weapons last month, according to the military and intelligence trade journal Janes.
As Statista’s Anna Fleck reports, the move marks the first time that a NATO army has started operational trials with armed unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), more commonly known as “killer robots” – a worrying shift in warfare from the West.
Four armed Tracked Hybrid Modular Infantry Systems (THeMIS) UGCs were reportedly deployed to Lithuania on September 12, where they are undergoing trials in a “military-relevant environment”, according to Janes.
Unlike drones, which require a human to instruct it where to move and how to act, these robotic tank-like weapons are designed to know how to pull the trigger themselves.
The UN has convened repeatedly to decide whether or not to ban killer robots, or merely to regulate them.
The grand majority of the world remains critical of lethal autonomous weapons systems in war, according to research carried out by Ipsos and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.
IN A SERIES of little noted Zoom meetings this fall, the city of Oakland, California, grappled with a question whose consequences could shape the future of American policing: Should cops be able to kill people with shotgun-armed robots?
The back-and-forth between the Oakland Police Department and a civilian oversight body concluded with the police relinquishing their push for official language that would have allowed them to kill humans with robots under certain circumstances. It was a concession to the civilian committee, which pushed to bar arming robots with firearms — but a concession only for the time being.
The department said it will continue to pursue lethal option. When asked whether the the Oakland Police Department will continue to advocate for language that would allow killer robots under certain emergency circumstances, Lt. Omar Daza-Quiroz, who represented the department in discussions over the authorized robot use policy, told The Intercept, “Yes, we are looking into that and doing more research at this time.”
The controversy began at the September 21 meeting of an Oakland Police Commission subcommittee, a civilian oversight council addressing what rules should govern the use of the city’s arsenal of military-grade police equipment. According to California state law, police must seek approval from a local governing body, like a city council, to determine permissible uses of military equipment or weapons like stun grenades and drones. Much of the September meeting focused on the staples of modern American policing, with the commissioners debating the permissible uses of flash-bang grenades, tear gas, and other now-standard equipment with representatives from the Oakland Police Department.
Roughly two hours into the meeting, however, the conversation moved on to the Oakland police’s stable of robots and their accessories. One such accessory is the gun-shaped “percussion actuated nonelectric disruptor,” a favorite tool of bomb squads at home and at war. The PAN disruptor affixes to a robot and directs an explosive force — typically a blank shotgun shell or pressurized water — at suspected bombs while human operators remain at a safe distance. Picture a shotgun barrel secured to an 800-pound Roomba on tank treads.
White blood cells can be harnessed as natural, biocompatible microrobots through the use of lasers, researchers from China have reported. The finding, which the team demonstrated in living zebrafish, could pave the way towards a new method of targeted drug delivery for precision treatment of diseases.
Medical microrobots have attracted considerable attention for their potential to deliver drugs to particular sites in the body and to help clear pathogens from the circulatory system.
In most medical microrobot concepts, the tiny tools are fabricated outside of the body and then either injected into the patient or packaged up in capsules and then swallowed. Trials in small animals, however, have revealed a problem – namely that these foreign objects have a tendency to trigger an immune response in their host body, with the result that the microrobots end up being removed from the body before they can fulfil their intended purpose.
To get around this, an alternative approach lies in taking cells that are already present in the body – and are therefore not at risk of setting off an immune response – and press ganging them into service as natural microrobots.
Small-scale robots—which can range in size from the millimeter scale to the nanoscale—continue to develop more and more degrees of freedom. And cargo delivery methods. One new small-scale “ultrafast” bot developed by researchers at Johannes Kepler University in Austria adds a helping of speed to the mix. In fact, for its size, the bendy bipedal-ish robot is faster than “most animals.”
“High-speed locomotion is an essential survival strategy for animals, allowing [the inhabitation of] harsh and unpredictable environments,” the researchers write in a study published in Nature Communications outlining their ultrafast robots. “Bio-inspired soft robots equally benefit from versatile and ultrafast motion but require appropriate driving mechanisms and device designs,” they add.
To that end, the researchers, including Guoyong Mao, et al. created a class of “curved” small-scale robots controlled by electromagnetic fields acting upon printed liquid metal channels embedded in their soft, elastic “bodies.” More specifically, the electromagnetic fields modulated the Lorentz forces—or the forces that act upon charged particles due to electric and magnetic fields—applied to the embedded printed liquid metal channels, which themselves carried alternating currents.
On Friday, iRobot accepted Amazon’s $1.7 billion offer to purchase the robot vacuum company. If the deal goes through, pending shareholder and regulatory approval, the technology giant will receive a plethora of personal data, including the floor plans of millions of users’ homes.
In 2021, iRobot reported that over 40 million Roombas had been sold worldwide since the release of its first model in 2002. The small automated vacuum uses sensors to map out each room in a home. If the Federal Trade Commission approves the deal, this stored personal data will be handed over to Amazon. The company has yet to comment on how it plans to use this data.
The purchase of iRobot is just the latest deal initiated by Amazon. In 2018, it purchased Ring, a video doorbell company. That same year, Amazon acquired the wifi router manufacturer Eero. Amazon recently offered One Medical, a health care clinic chain, an all-cash $3.49 billion deal. The purchase would provide Amazon with the health data from 188 offices around the United States.
Remember those ‘cute’ dancing dogs from (Japanese-owned) Boston Dynamics that were doing all sorts of maneuvers, pulling rickshaws, and opening doors with their ‘muzzles’?
Well, China has made their own version of ‘spot’ – except they strapped a gun onto it and adorned it with Russian special forces insignia.
As Sean Gallagher, a Senior Threat Researcher at Sophos points out, “All the people who laughed off the “worrywarts” years ago for freaking out about the Funny Dancing Robot Dogs ™ should be forced to watch this video once a day for the remainder of the year.“