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Smart robots may be new enemy in firefight training

Idex 2013: Australian technology firm Marathon Targets will be demonstrating the advanced robots to UAE officials next week.

ABU DHABI // UAE officers could soon be training with artificial intelligence robots that can take evasive action, dodge bullets and move in hostile formations, said an Australian department of defence official.

Australian technology company Marathon Targets will be demonstrating the advanced robots to officials next week.

The Marathon Robot is a Segway platform-based robot that runs and moves at human speed and is programmed to mimic human reactions when shots are fired, said Maj Gen Mick Fairweather, a military specialist at the Australian Defence Export Unit.

"Within the next 90 days we will be delivering robots to the US marines, Canadian army and Australian army," he said. "The first time soldiers shoot real bullets at real targets is during their first firefight," he said. "This technology allows them to do so in training against targets that move realistically."

Marathon Targets applies state-of-the-art robotic technology to live-fire marksmanship training, said the company's Richard Petrov. "This approach simultaneously improves realism and the challenge of training, while reducing the overall cost of ownership," he added.

According to Maj Gen Fairweather, the smart targets are autonomous, which provides a set of unique capabilities such as realistic, challenging and unpredictable motion, responsive behaviour, with minimum infrastructure required.

"They can be programmed to be friendly or unfriendly or neutral and, when a shot is fired, they will scatter. If they are shot down, they will cease to move," he said.

When a target is shot, Mr Petrov added, it provides instant visual feedback by stopping and dropping its mannequin. "It simultaneously sends a message to other targets, who react by running for cover," he said.

"Marathon's latest contract, awarded in November by a Nato member country, serves as further market validation," said the company's chief operating officer and co-founder Dr Tobias Kaupp this year. "Militaries and law enforcement agencies are seeking new tools to make live fire training as realistic as possible."

amustafa@thenational.ae

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