terça-feira, 12 de outubro de 2010

Need someone to play OPFOR? You're in luck!

Marathon Robotics 01

It's a bummer, when everybody wants to be the good guy and no one wants to be the bad guy, you get an imbalanced game. So you'll have to cajole everyone until someone steps forward to volunteer as OPFOR, and some hesitant feet will then follow. Tough being a game organiser sometimes.

For the military, it's even a tougher problem. You want to do some live firing exercises, and naturally no one wants to be fired at with a live round. So how do you train your grunts to be able to take out moving targets at an objective who are running all over the place, peeking at windows or hiding behind obstacles without endangering human lives when firing live rounds?

The answer is now with the US Marine Corps (USMC), which awarded US$50 million to Marathon Robotics, an Australian company which makes autonomous robots that can act as "smart targets" for the Marines to shoot at. Called "Rover" or in military's penchant for long names and acronyms: ARNLT (Autonomous Robots Networked for Live-fire Training), these are not dumb targets mounted on rails moving forward and backward, or sideways. These are robots that can scamper away and hide at the first sound of gunfire, making them unpredictable and tough targets to shoot at.

Once one robot gets hit by a live round, it then moves horizontal indicating it's "dead" or "wounded". Other robots within the network, communicating via a wireless local network, spread out in different directions, hiding behind walls, get inside buildings, or find the nearest area to hide. Shooters will then work fast enough to "elimimate" the robots which are running at human speeds: they can sprint by tilting forward, or stop by leaning backwards. They have collision-detection sensors so that they don't get to bump into each other. Much better than those 1st generation bots you played against in Counterstrike.

The robots are unpredictable, so shooters cannot anticipate where they will appear or where they make their next move. This makes them a good targets for live fire exercises.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNoJrIOREeo&fs=1&hl=en_GB&rel=0&hd=1]

Until technology advances, the Marines will have to settle for two-wheeled robots as OPFOR in live firing exercises. It would be great of bi-ped robots who can jump, crawl, lie prone, and climb would be the future generation of smart targets.

It would be nice to have these for airsoft use. But then the costs would be prohibitive for airsoft game organisers who rely on skirmish fees rather than taxpayers' money. A regular Segway costs US$6,500 brand new, and fitting a segway with all those electronics, sensors, armour, and the dummy would just put it beyond the reach of any airsoft game organiser in the civilian sector.

While they are really great for such execises, they also have another problem: they don't shoot back.

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