THE MIL & AERO BLOG, 24 Sept. 2013. Robots of one kind or another seem like they're everywhere these days. I note with interest, for example, that DARPA is asking Boston Dynamics to build an enhanced version of the company's experimental Legged Squad Support System (LS3) robot that eventually could provide soldiers and Marines with a mechanical mule that not only would help warfighters carry heavy loads, but also charge their batteries.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are becoming so commonplace that the FAA is hard-pressed to come up with regulations to enable these flying robots to operate side-by-side with commercial passenger jets in congested airspace.
There was a time when people would recoil in horror at the thought of flying robots sharing the same airspace as the jetliners carrying their families. Today, though, no one's really batting an eye.
Unmanned marine vehicles, meanwhile, are becoming a hot technology topic, as military researchers push a program forward to develop a long-endurance unmanned underwater submarine that would function as a mothership for other unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), as well as launch and recover UAVs.
On a separate front, medical experts are developing high-tech prosthetics with robotic capabilities for wounded warfighters. These robotic replacement limbs often are more useful and capable than the natural arms and legs that were lost in battle.
-- DARPA asks Boston Dynamics to build enhanced version of legged infantry-support robot
-- Navy to brief industry in October on project to build large long-endurance unmanned submarine
-- Prosthetic Limbs.
Today, however, it's different. I'm hearing more and more stories of wounded warfighters given the choice of keeping a damaged-but-patched-up limb or getting a new high-tech prosthetic device. In an increasing number of cases they're choosing the prosthetics out of the promise that they'll be better than ever before.
Human beings are more accepting of robotic technology than they've ever been. Wheeled and legged robots are becoming essential pieces of the warfighter's gear. Swimming robots help chart the depths of the world's oceans and gather data in powerful hurricanes. Ever-more-accessible UAVs are becoming a tool for spying on the neighbor's wedding reception.
Now, as humans start to accept the notion of robotic limbs to replace those lost in accidents, might this be the first glimmer of a fundamental transformation in human evolution? More to the point, will the typical human of the future be a combination of biological, mechanical, and electronic subsystems?
We've all seen the movies, but what used to be science fantasy quickly is becoming science fact.