Friday, June 08, 2007

Robot Plushy Becomes America’s Newest Weapon

Under the Pentagon's newest proposal, a plush robot is poised to enter the battlefield as "the grunt's new best friend".

The remote-controlled, plush mechanical champion, called "Binky", is soft on the exterior, but contains a titanium-alloy endoskeletal frame, making it tough enough for the battlefield.

It may look like an oversized kid's toy, but Binky's designed to rescue wounded soldiers, and can bound over bumpy terrain to carry out even the most challenging missions.

Binky, an acronym for Battleready Industrial Neo-Kevlar Yeoman, is part of the Pentagon's next-generation "Mechanical Myrmidons", destined for Afghanistan and Iraq, according to News Scientist.

A senior Pentagon spokesman said, "this will not only boost morale in the field, where our good men and women have too few reminders of home; dollar-for-dollar, it's significantly more cost-effective than equipping every soldier in the field with costly body armor. It's just an idea whose time has come."

According to Halliburton subsidiary Ventner Technologies, the titanium-alloy prototype's torso can pluck up a 200-pound wounded soldier with a single plush arm. Improving its bounding distance is next on Ventner’s agenda.

"What's more, special body cavities can be filled with Easter eggs and other goodies to give to Iraqi children who may be suffering the loss of one or both parents. It's just win-win for all concerned," added Paul Burch, Ventner's Armaments and Holiday Ornaments Division Manager.

In tests, Binky - equipped with twin swivel-turreted 45-calibre machine pistols, infrared cameras and microphones providing feedback to its human operator - can hop up and down stairs while carrying a human-sized manikin.

Expected to be field-ready within half a decade, the robot can also transport heavy loads for extensive distances.

As American soldiers are increasingly being killed by landmines, commanders in the field have turned more and more to the defense industry for a better alternative.

Robots that are becoming increasingly better at distinguishing human targets are already being used for security in Korea’s DMZ, and are soon expected to be deployed in Iraq, where , as one senior industry spokesman put it, "mistakes are less of an issue, and we can really get a chance to put this new technology through its paces".

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