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Singapore Launches Contest To Build 'Urban Warrior' Robots

As Montgomery Burns says "release the hounds, Smithers".
by Staff Writers
Singapore (AFP) Jan 24, 2007
Singapore Tuesday launched a contest to build a robot that can operate autonomously in urban warfare conditions, moving in and out of buildings to search and destroy targets like a human soldier. The country's Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) said on its website it is offering one million Singapore dollars (652,000 US) to the developers of such a robot that completes a stipulated task in the fastest time.

DSTA said individuals, companies, universities and research institutes are welcome to participate in the contest, dubbed TechX Challenge. Foreigners must to collaborate with local partners to join the contest.

"Operation in urban areas represents a significant challenge to militaries," DSTA chief executive Richard Lim said at the launch of the contest on Tuesday.

"Recent military experiences in Iraq, the Middle East and other locations have clearly illustrated these challenges."

Currently, robots deployed for urban warfare missions are remotely operated by a human, limiting their effectiveness and tying down resources, Lim said.

The robot DSTA wants "must, on its own, be able to navigate both indoors and outdoors in an urban landscape and accomplish a set of assigned tasks within a stipulated time," he said.

This robot must be able to negotiate a staircase and use the elevator to dash from one floor to another even without the aid of satellite navigation which may not be available indoors.

Designing a robot that would be able to use an elevator, for example, will be a technological challenge, as not all elevators are designed similarly.

Navigation without satellite help would require the robot "to have machine vision capabilities to identify visual cues along its intended path to serve as waypoints," Lim said.

Participants must submit their applications by the end of May this year and the list of shortlisted participants will be announced in June.

The robots will be submitted for testing in a qualifying round in May 2008. A final round in August will crown the robot warrior that can complete the assigned task in the fastest time.

Defence experts have said that the fight against terrorism has made urban warfare increasingly unavoidable, as the experience in Iraq has shown, but high-tech weaponry could minimise casualties.

As cities become more populated and as extremist networks seek refuge in urban centers, conventional armed forces worldwide need to evolve their doctrines and weapons to better fight a new kind of enemy, they said.

The DSTA said it hopes the project will sharpen the Singapore military's technical edge.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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First Soft-Bodied Robots Planned
Boston (UPI) Jan 26, 2007
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