World-first project bringing robo-warfare into next generation - M5 Dergi
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World-first project bringing robo-warfare into next generation

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Australian soldiers could soon be directing robots with hand gestures, doing away with clunky remote controls, in a high-tech world first.

Edith Cowan University in Western Australia is working with robotics company Chironix, augmented reality provider Agili8, and manufacturer Motium to bring Australia’s defence technology into the next generation.

“Optimising the present-day utility of robotics technology in the Australian Defence Force requires integrating robots into the human operating environment where they can be at least partially controlled by a human operator,” ECU’s Dr Syed Gilani said.

Instead of responding to remote control, robots will be taught to recognise hand gestures performed by the operator – but they don’t have to be in sight of each other.

The operator will wear a pair of special augmented-reality glasses with a camera mounted in them, which will pick up and transmit the orders across “considerable” distances.

“This use of AI and AR in the battlefield will improve responsiveness and reduce the cognitive load on the soldier and is only the beginning of the applications of this technology,” Agili8 chief technology officer Chris Markovic said.

According to developers, the technology is a natural progression in communication for soldiers on the frontline.

“There is a long pedigree of Australian soldiers using hand gestures to communicate silently with one another,” Chironix Robotics principal research fellow Dr Owen Carter said.

“The last thing your average digger wants to do is stuff around with a robot remote control while getting shot at. Signalling to a robot with one hand while keeping your other hand firmly on your weapon is much preferred.”

The world-first project is expected to take a year and a half to develop, before being presented to the Defence Science Centre.

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