Aussie company Marathon Robotics is angling for a US$57 million contract with the US military to provide autonomous robots for live-fire training exercises.
Alex Brooks, co-founder of Marathon Robotics told ZDNet Australia that the United States Marine Corps had been provided with a set of live-fire robots to test.
"In about 12 months, if [the robots] pass all of the marines' requirements, they will be able to procure them in larger numbers ... there are options on the contract up to US$57 million," Brooks said.
Robots are able to sense when they are about to collide with something and can quickly change direction if needs be. (Credit: Marathon Robotics)
Brooks said a placement with the army would be lucrative. "The army is where all the big budgets are," Brooks said.
He wouldn't confirm how many units the United States Marine Corps had received, but did say that it was enough to simulate a large crowd environment with "terrorist" robots and "civilian" robots, for example.
The top half of the robot is a plastic mannequin, with the bottom section made up by computer system and motion controls similar to that of a Segway.
The armoured mobile training robot is controlled by a laser scanner beneath its armour. A set of navigation algorithms matches what it sees to a pre-programmed map of the environment, enabling it to duck in and out of cover, react to certain circumstances and provide a unique target for snipers and infantry.
"It's kind of like a computer game with real robots," said Brooks.
Robots taking part in a live fire demonstration. (Credit: Marathon Robotics)
Robots have the ability to follow each other and take cover when a fellow cyborg is being shot at. The technology is also designed so that a robot can react quickly to new stimuli in its environment such as a threat or an obstacle.
Marathon Robotics was founded in 2007 by three PhD students from the University of Sydney after consultation with the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
In tandem with the ADF, Tobias Kaupp, Alex Makarenko and Alex Brooks founded Marathon Robotics and began development for the autonomous live-fire robot.
The robots are currently used by the Australian Defence Force in its live fire exercises.