Robot security guard can track and shoot

A robot security guard has been developed in Thailand that can fire bullets either by itself or through instructions from humans via an internet link.

A robot security guard has been developed in Thailand that can fire bullets either by itself or through instructions from humans via an internet link.

Fears are mounting that Roboguard - which has infrared sensors able to track people as they move and the potential to fire a laser-guided gun in automatic mode - could run amok, even with the internet connection.

Developed by Pitikhate Sooraksa of King Mongkut's Institute of Technology in Bangkok, the robot consists of a motorised trolley holding a gun and a video camera, which can be pointed separately.

"This is a bad idea of prize-winning magnitude," said a posting to comp.risks, a website about potentially dangerous computer systems. Another said: "The apparent goal here is to make remote firepower available on-the-spot from around the internet" whichwould almost certainly lead to someone hacking into the robot's controls remotely.

The designer of the robot said the internet controller would have to use a password to tell the machine to fire. "We think the decision to fire should always be a human decision - otherwise it could kill people," Mr Sooraksa said. He hopes to interest the army in it and is planning a walking version.

Kevin Warwick, a cyberneticist at Warwick University, told New Scientist he was worried about the implications. "Things can always go wrong."

Chris Czarnecki, from the Centre for Computational Intelligence at De Montfort University, said: "What about time delays across the internet when it's busy? What you'll be seeing and what the gun's pointing at will be two different things. You could end up shooting anything."

The robot evolution is taking a different turn in the US, where scientists have made a step towards producing robots that can reproduce themselves and evolve. According to the science journal Nature, a computer system uses natural selection to design robots and then automatically build them. The result is three "walking" robots evolved from hundreds of design concepts and manufactured from plastic with almost no human intervention.

While there have been many screen-based computer simulations of robot evolution, the experiments carried out by Hod Lipson and Jordan Pollack, of Brandeis University, Massachusetts, are the first in which such work has been transferred into the real world.

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