Military security firm Ghost Robotics has built a mechanical dog capable of carrying a remote-controlled rifle on its back.
The Special Purpose Unmanned Rifle (SPUR) is comprised of a 6.5mm Creedmore rifle from weapons company SWORD International combined with the quadruped unmanned ground vehicle from the robotics firm.
First seen at the US Army’s annual convention in Washington DC, as reported by The Drive, this is apparently one of the first systems like these with an actual weapon attached.
It is unclear how much ammunition the gun contains, and how difficult it might be to reload. Ghost Robotics says that the robot dog can be commanded to chamber the first round from an unloaded state, clear the chamber, and ‘safeing’ the gun (when the weapon is not cocked and no ammunition is present). It can fire bullets up to a 1200-metre distance.
The gun used in this array is reportedly not widely used by the military or other forces around the world, but US Special Operations Command is apparently in the process of acquiring light machine guns and rifles similar to this one.
The report says that it is likely the human operators of the robot dog would be able to fire it using an Android Team Awareness Kit (ATAK), an app that can be installed on tablets and access on-board video cameras.
It is also possible it could use artificial intelligence to detect and “lock on” to potential targets, although a human operator may be ultimately responsible for pulling the trigger. Being smaller, and robotic, the mechanical canines would be able to fit into places humans could not.
The ramifications of such a machine are not yet known, but holistically many academics and journalists have written about warfare changing with increased gamification –such as Xbox controllers used to control Boeing’s High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator in a test for the US military – or with greater distance between the human on the battlefield and their target.
In February 2021 an exhibit run by MSCHF, the internet collective that has also been responsible for providing stock advice based on people’s horoscopes and trainers that contain holy water, attached a paintball gun atop Boston Dynamics’ robot dog Spot.
It continued that these machines will “definitely be used by police and the military to murder people. And what do police departments have? Strong unions! Spot is employee of the month. You never need to union bust a robot – but a robot can union bust you.”
The Independent has reached out to Ghost Robotics for more information and comment on such comparisons.