Posted by: robotnews | April 5, 2007

"A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm."

Kevin Brown
NT061428J

Isaac Asimov’s first law of robotics [1] seems certain to be broken in the near future. Military applications of robotics have poured many millions of dollars into unmanned air and ground vehicles, as well as smaller, armed robots. Most of the armed unmanned vehicles, however, lie under the ultimate control of a human. With the most government military (except Korea) currently wary to give control of the trigger to silicon, the first ‘First Law’ transgressor may have been designed by an amateur just out of college.

In the summer of 2006 Aaron Rasmussen, freshly graduated from Boston University in the US, decided to do something to make him stand out to employers. He had a friend manning a turret in Iraq and it inspired him to design a sentry gun. “I thought, my friend is risking is life for no apparent reason,” he said. [2]
Image provided by http://www.thesentrygun.com/

The gun essentially tracks and aims for the heart (with no higher level choice of target beyond recognizing a human). Rasmussen programmed the vision systems using Microsoft’s DirectShow technology and utilizing the OpenCV library. The camera is an everyday webcam. The gun is an FN P90 and it tracks with servo motors controlled by four bar linkage. The computing power is provided by an external computer.

There is commercial interest in the gun. USMechatronics has begun working toward production under the auspices of SEIS group.

The sentry gun he designed shoots 6 mm ball bearings, not bullets, and Rasmussen says he is of the dangers presented. The bottom of his site, which details how he built the gun, reads “Don’t Die Disclaimer: Don’t use these plans, derivations of the gun, or anything to hurt people. In fact, don’t hurt people.”

Citations:
[1] “Runaround” by Isaac Asimov
[2] http://www.bu.edu/phpbin/news-cms/news/?dept=4&id=37650
http://www.thesentrygun.com/
http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum=502

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Responses

  1. U036367L Khoo Wei Chuan, Simon

    I was also using the OpenCV library for facial detection/ recognition purposes during my FYP so thought it would be interesting to share some practical limitations of the library and its object detection scheme using haar-like features. The object detection is actually very sensitive to the quality and quantity of positive samples you have used to trained the classifier set. So technically, if the programmer has only trained samples of users standing straight up, the gun might not be able to detect intruders (or whatever) that are kneeeling or crawling past.As the posture that a human being can observe is almost limitless, this can be a constraint to its performance. More importantly, front facing human beings and side-facing ones will also look diferently.

  2. Koh Yew Tong U036316U

    This sentry gun looks interesting but i think this sentry gun should have a sensor to identify who it is shooting at. (if in the future the sentry gun is employed in war)

  3. It is sad to see simple technology being turned into one that takes lives so easily. I’m sure the recognition problems can be overcomed, perhaps just by recognizing silhouettes or learning where torso is, or how much in proportion to shoot measuring from the top. What I can hope is just for infantry robots to be invented so the robots will simply be shooting at one another.

  4. u037028m Azhar Risyad Sunaryo

    Hmm I am amazed at this machine. To be able to track a human or moving target , I don’t know, but I think the sampling time for the sensors should be very fast. This means that the computer on board should be powerful. Just my thought though. Amazing hehe.

    Btw I found out the video about this product in youtube “http://youtube.com/watch?v=v5YftEAbmMQ”
    check it out, it is a very interesting machine.

    But overall, I agree with what JP said, it is quite sad to see robotics used for hurting mankind.

  5. Osbert Poniman U037052H

    I just found out that this automated firing gun had already been used in Berlin before East and West Germany united. The automated gun was placed on the east Wall. This was designed not only to stop people from getting IN, but also to prevent east German from getting OUT. The details can be found in this link
    http://www.memorial.fr/10EVENT/gb/mur.htm

  6. I think this is a very dangerous invention. Some accident might happen, if friendly forces walk past and the gun mistook them for enemy. The design of the gun can be better improved by some simple clothing detection. But, i think it would be still be best that these duties are left to the ‘human sentries’, because only humans can identify the difference between a civilian, an enemy or a friendly unit.

    by U036419B Jway Kim Soon

  7. To Simon:
    The problems you bring up about humans in different positions are interesting. I’d think Samsung must have at least partially solved that problem for Korea’s robots, though and I’d be interested in seeing how.

    To JP:
    War between robots would be a war of resources, where starvation might kill the losing side at home, a bit like the Cold war starved the soviet people. In any event, it doesn’t seem likely that anyone going to war would have the sense or constraint to avoid bloodshed at some point, unless humanity reverses a trend. I don’t hink robot fighters will save lives.

    To Azhar: Actually he used an older computer, but it had difficulty keeping up.

    To Osbert:
    Very interesting, I wonder what type of sensor they used to detect people crossing the wall.

    Original Poster:
    Kevin Brown
    NT061428J


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