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[infowar.de] MIT entwickelt Journalisten-Roboter für Kriegsgebiete
Das klingt fast wie ein Aprilscherz, so absurd ist die Idee. Aber das
MIT war ja schon immer für ungewohnte Ideen bekannt. Schaut mal auf die
Webseite, da sind noch absurdere Bildchen mit Beschriftungen wie "Robot"
Robo-Scribe: Perfect for War?
By Louise Knapp
2:00 a.m. March 1, 2002 PST
The robot journalist -- a remote-controlled reporting machine -- is
currently having its hardware polished in anticipation of its first
assignment: covering the war in Afghanistan.
The robot, a brainchild of computer engineers at Massachusetts Institute
of Technology's Computing Culture Department, comes equipped with all
the gadgets needed to conduct interviews and rout out the latest news
Once unpacked at its destination, the robo-journalist can utilize its
4-wheel-drive electric motor to venture into territory deemed too
dangerous for its human counterpart.
But even the robot's creators do not think the machine could ever truly
substitute for the real thing.
"I would never make a grandiose claim like this," said Chris
Csikszentmihalyi, director of the Computing Culture Group and team
leader in the project.
Members of the media agree. "Look at Daniel Pearl -- you couldn't have
sent a machine into that -- it would be nice if you could but it would
just never work," said Daniel Sneider, national and foreign editor for
the San Jose Mercury News.
"What Dan Pearl was trying to do was subtle and complicated, and for all
the programming you could give a robot, I don't think you could ever get
it to this level," said Andrew Ross, executive foreign and national
editor for the San Francisco Chronicle.
The greatest challenge for the robot, dubbed Afghan eXplorer, is getting
its fellow journalists to take it seriously.
"I pride myself on having a good imagination but I'm having a hard time
visualizing this one," Ross said.
Still, the MIT team is convinced its robot can play a journalistic
The team was inspired by the belief that the news coming out of
Afghanistan was not revealing the whole picture. The U.S. Army currently
restricts press access in the war zone, saying some areas are too
dangerous to enter.
The MIT team said nothing is too dangerous for a robot.
"It's unclear where it stands legally, so (the robot) currently has the
potential to go where journalists are not allowed," Csikszentmihalyi
The 3-by-2-foot, $10,000 device comes with a digital video camera able
to shoot in a wide range of lighting conditions. It also has digital
audio recording capabilities and an intercom system for remote
The robot is controlled remotely by engineers at MIT. Csikszentmihalyi
said one of the main advantages of tele-operation is that the robot can
be sent wherever the news is.
"It also allows us to use human intelligence and judgment when looking
through the eyes of the robot to make decisions," he said.
A 10 kbps, two-way voice/data satellite uplink allows compressed voice
and video information to be relayed between the robot and mission
The robot has a video screen that can relay graphics and motion video,
so that the person being interviewed can see the interviewer.
The video screen and a microphone sit on the end of a 4-foot pole
attached to the robot's frame so it can conduct interviews at eye
The robot has a top speed of 4 mph and is completely solar powered. It
is equipped with a global positioning system and an electronic
The robo-journalist is slated to be deployed by mid-spring. It will
cross Afghanistan starting in the east, stopping to explore areas of
local interest, photograph events and conduct interviews along the way.
"We will try and create a community. As the robot runs into people, and
they realize it's on a peaceful mission, the robot may try and catch a
ride with them, get them to introduce the robot to others -- socialize
like a journalist would to get people's trust so they then introduce him
to others," Csikszentmihalyi said.
The robot's human colleagues are pretty dubious about its success on
"I don't think al-Qaida would take kindly to robot reporters -- I can't
see a head of the al-Qaida sitting down for an interview with a robot,"
"I think it would be totally ineffective because the entire basis of
journalism is making contact with people, establishing a personal
contact," said Vlae Kershner, news director of SF Gate. "People are very
unlikely to open up to a robot."
However, the main disadvantage of the robot was pointed out by
"If these people see a strange technology coming toward them, their
first inclination is probably to shoot. It's a bullet magnet and it's
not very resistant to bullets," he said.
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