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In the future, will robots fight wars?

By getting robots to dream, they can become even better soccer players than humans. Or sci-fi killer machines

Imagine a robot with wheels. It drives around with confidence because it knows all the terrains on the planet. It perceives it’s surroundings with acute precision, it understands different textures and it sees through walls. And when its battery runs out, it charges itself through solar panels. Sounds like the future? No, this is the present.

The field of robotics is in rapid development. However, even though much of the technology is in place, we are still years from seeing ‘Star Wars’ in real life.

“The atomic bomb was a revolution. But the use of robots in warfare is more like an evolution” says Jens Christian Andersen, professor in robotics at Danish Technical University at a conference on future security trends held at the University of Copenhagen Thursday.

If robots could dream

The biggest challenge to robotic warfare is shared with many humans: They need situational awareness. And they need it to a degree that permits them to act with absolute certainty.

“Now you can get a robot to work around the house. You can get it to clear the table after dinner. You can get it to do the laundry. It can pick up forks, knifes, plates and so on and put it in the dish washer. But if your smartphone is placed next to the fork, it can’t tell the difference”, explains Jens.

Researchers still need to develop and refine skills such as perception and intelligence. Some are even trying to find out how to make robots dream. “A group of researchers claim they will develop robots into becoming the ultimate soccer players by 2050, even better than human players. They will be programmed so they can beat anyone,” according to Jens.

Managing disaster

To be fully efficient in warfare, robots need one ability that humans have. To reflect on past experiences and automatically adjust them to new actions .

But development is going fast, especially in the US, and it is well funded. Robotic warfare costs a lot of money at the moment, as robots and all their limbs are madly expensive.

However, using them in aggressive warfare comes with countless ethical dilemmas of course. In the meantime, and while these dilemmas are mulled, robots can be used for this:

Military surveillance, measuring, handling traffic. And soon, we will see them managing disasters like pulling people out of collapsed buildings or going into radioactively contaminated areas.

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