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[infowar.de] Soldiers bond with battlefield robots
Ist wohl gerade Roboter-Zeit, den letzten Nachrichten nach zu urteilen.
Daher hier der Hinweis auf http://www.robocup2006.org, der vor der
Menschen-Fussball-WM hier in Bremen ausgetragen wird.
Und ich verspreche, bis nach der WM sage ich hier nichts mehr zum Thema
Fussball - ausser Al Qaeda hackt sich in die Sportwetten-Server. ;-)
Soldiers bond with battlefield robots
Lessons learned in Iraq may show up in future household ‘avatars’
By Joel Rothstein
Updated: 6:56 p.m. ET May 23, 2006
SAN DIEGO - U.S. soldiers in Iraq are giving nicknames and forming
emotional bonds with bomb-defusing robots they have come to regard as
teammates, according to the founder of the company that invented the machines.
IRobot Chief Executive Colin Angle said one group of soldiers even named
its robot “Scooby Doo” and grieved when it was blown up after completing
35 successful missions defusing improvised explosive devices.
“Please fix Scooby Doo because he saved my life,” a soldier told repair
technicians, according to Angle’s account at last week’s Future in Review
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The company, which is best known for Roomba, the robotic vacuum cleaner,
and Scooba, the floor-mopping robot, envisions a machine that would
instill similar feelings in civilians.
Someday, Angle believes, these robots — which he calls ”physical avatars”
— will help care for children and the elderly, giving parents and
caregivers greater peace of mind as well as relief from mundane tasks.
But iRobot got its start as a military contractor, and its future also
looks firmly wedded to the armed services.
Military contracts continue
The company was formed in 1990 and completed its initial public offering
“There were no venture capitalists interested in funding robotics 15 years
ago,” said Neena Buck, a Strategic Analytics vice president who
specializes in emerging technologies. ”IRobot was funded by a lot military
contracts and research grants that allowed them to do parallel research on
Scooby Doo was one of about 300 PackBot Tactical Mobile Robots deployed in
Iraq and Afghanistan to open doors in urban combat, lay fiber-optic cable,
defuse bombs and perform other hazardous duties previously done by humans
In March, iRobot won a $26 million U.S. Navy contract to provide an
additional 213 PackBots for bomb-defusing duty, bringing the total value
of Navy orders of its robots to more than $43 million.
The company has won another contract to supply its next-generation robots
to the U.S. Army’s Future Combat Systems. IRobot is working with Boston
University on a sniper detection robot that could sense where a bullet
The Boeing Co., with employee-owned Science Applications International
Inc., is the primary contractor for the $125 billion future combat program
that will use advanced communications to link troops with a family of 18
manned and unmanned air and ground vehicles.
IRobot has sold about 2 million Roombas, the company announced on Monday.
It doubled its first-quarter revenue to $38.2 million from a year earlier.
But investors have punished the stock, driving its price to about $21 from
the mid-$30s in recent months as the company failed to turn a profit due
to a near tripling of marketing costs.
“I think they are in the early innings of this market opportunity,” said
Jonathan Dorsheimer, director of research at capital management firm
IRobot will use the defense market to develop technology that it can then
use as the basis for lower-cost consumer applications, he said. For
example, he suggested the company might develop a robotic lawn mower in
And then there’s the avatar. Angle said a human being would remotely
control this futuristic robot, which would be capable of carrying out
complex tasks such as cooking meals and ensuring people take the
prescribed dosages of medicines.
“The physical avatar has a screen, sound, and the ability to manipulate
objects,” he said. “It provides a physical presence in a remote location.”
An iRobot partner has already produced an avatar that Angle says allows
doctors to complete hospital rounds remotely. Angle’s goal is to make the
commercial-grade avatar, which he says costs in the tens of thousands of
dollars, cheap enough for consumers.
Leaner, meaner robots
While he does not know when these types of machines will be available in
typical households, Angle is more immediately focused on the robots in
Iraq, which are going out on 600 to 700 missions a day. IRobot employees
who have been in Iraq have returned with ideas to improve weight, battery
operation and other product requirements.
Angle did not hesitate when asked if he thinks the bond soldiers have
formed with his robots is normal.
“I think it’s very rational,” he said. “(Scooby Doo) was someone,
something, that was doing a great service for them and thus when they
brought it back, it was viewed not just as a loss of a machine gun or a
piece of body armor or a helmet. It was a loss of a contributing member of
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