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'WALL-E' robot grunt obeys military hand signals

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Vid American robo-profs have developed control software which will allow the droid ground-troops of tomorrow to be controlled by their fleshy comrades using standard military hand signals.

You know in the movies, where the soldiers are creeping about on patrol and they raise a hand to halt the column or get it moving again? Now you can do that with war robots. Boffins at Brown University, who developed the new person-following 'ware, demo the concept in this vid:

Thus far, the robotrooper tech can recognise such standard hand/arm signals as "follow," "halt," "wait" and - of course - "door breach". It would seem only a matter of time until more advanced concepts like "root out cowering meatsacks" or "terminate the first born male child in every family" can be conveyed.

The boffins at Brown see their technology as being generally applicable to all robotics, perhaps one day delivering the long-awaited robot butler and so stealing a march on the rival brain-chipped monkey industry. The military flavour comes from the fact that the research was funded in part by military agencies including the Office of Naval Research and our old friends at DARPA - where they probably already open doors by having small robotic tanks drive through them, just for fun.

The robot in the vid is merely a puny PackBot for now, fitted with a CSEM Swiss Ranger depth-imaging camera ("picture the head on the robot in the film Wall-E"). The PackBot comes from famed auto-vacuum company iRobot, which also offers a much arse-kickinger model - the quadbike-sized Warrior X700. The Warrior has been sold to the US Army, and has on occasion been fitted with a "Metal Storm" four-barrelled grenade launcher able to ripple off 16 40mm warheads in a trice.

The company which makes the Metal Storm grenade-gasm gun has already tried it out with trendy thermobaric "bunker buster" rounds, able to collapse buildings or cavern roofs. The US military is known to be working on 40mm cartridges able to blow open inches-thick doors locked with deadbolts which "should completely remove the door, or at a minimum break off half of the door".

The only hope for opposing fleshies would seem to be that the circuitry-frying electropulse grenade - apparently already in service - gains wider circulation. ®

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