Robocolypse Now: Man Charged with Shooting Police Robot

060419_gort_lgRemember Gort in The Day the Earth Stood Still? Well, we’re getting closer to that. Nowadays, in special cases of dangerous shootouts or where a bomb is suspected, police send in robots to scope out the problem.

On February 23rd, Ohio police sent two robots into a home where a man was making threats and had fired a gun in his house. The man, who was as drunk as Rooster Cogburn on a bad day, shot at one of the robots. Allegedly, the injured robot was undeterred and the distraction allowed police to come storming in with a stun gun. The man was arrested at the scene. This is the first case I’ve heard where a man was charged with shooting a robot.

No word on the robot, but I assume he/she is in stable condition.

Now in case you’re thinking the police robots are indestructible behemoths like this…



Not quite. The police robots look more like Wall-E or that cute robot in Short Circuit. Definitely not a Transformer type. This is a typical police robot below …


Makes you want to tremble in your shoes just looking at it, right? No? Well, at least it works, and it does save lives. In this case, police found two AK-47 rifles and lots of ammunition.  I wonder what the robots looked like to the drunk guy?

I”m still holding out for Gort. Klaatu Berada Nikto.  Here’s the full article from PopSci.



Where Was That Photo Taken? U.S. Spy Agencies Want to Know


Bin Laden’s Compound (and Image Stash) Sajjad Ali Qureshi via Wikimedia

For anyone who saw Zero Dark Thirty, I’m sure you’d agree it was fascinating how they were able to draw inferences from  observing aerial images of the building they hoped Osama Bin Laden was hiding out in.

But what about all the photographic evidence they found in the computers retrieved from the building?

According to a report in PopSci, IARPA (the US Intelligence advanced research agency) recently launched a program called the Finder Program, which will enable a human analyst to use software to determine where any photo was taken, based on supporting evidence. It would then produce the GPS coordinates.

This would certainly be useful in assessing terrorist, propaganda, organized crime, and other intelligence photos.

If you have expertise in this area, they’d love to hear from you.

Just think; with software like that, you could win all those magazine contests that ask: Where was this photo taken?

If You See a Flying Humvee, You’re Not Drunk

Flying HUMVEECue the Flight of the Valkyries music from Apocalypse Now. Here come the flying Humvees. At least if DARPA (the U.S. Defense  research organization) gets its wish.

Designs for the so-called Transformer (TX) Program have already entered the prototype phase, with ground and flight demonstrations slated for 2015.

Not only will this baby be a roadworthy aircraft, it’ll need to be able to stop on a time for vertical takeoff and landing; be light enough to fly but strong enough for heavy road duty (and resistance to small arms fire); and be as easy to drive and pilot as a car.  Now we’re talkin’

Hey, if it doesn’t work out, they can always use the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang design. I’m sure Dick Van Dyke wouldn’t mind.


Send in the Drones: Unmanned Flyers and Submersible Robots go Public

According to PopSci, the world’s biggest event for unmanned vehicles, put on by AUVSI (Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International), is now highlighting unmanned drones, submersible robots, and other vehicles for non-military use.

Up to now, drones have primarily been a military resource, but now they can be leveraged for everything from agricultural and environmental use, law enforcement, public safety, forestry, mining and more. As one commenter noted, even the film industry could make use of the technology. As for submersible robots, they could be used for undersea exploration, harbor security, polar science missions, and who knows what else.

The skies, they are a-changin’.

For the full article, including videos, click here.

You Only Die Twice: How Ian Fleming and a Dead Homeless Person Won World War II

Operation Mincemeat. It sounds like something right out of a James Bond story (or at least a spoof of a James Bond story — Our Man Flint, perhaps).  But it was a real operation, conceived by Bond creator Ian Fleming when he was in the British Navy.

Glyndwr Michael, homeless, jobless, and desperate (and without a vowel in his first name), killed himself with rat poison in 1943.  Thanks to an ingenious plot by Fleming, he died again, this time for king and country.

Prior to a critical World War II operation, the British took the dead man and made him up to look like a Royal Marines courier, then planted him in Spain with a fake ID and a bunch of fake “top secret” documents indicating the Allies were going to invade the Germans in Greece. It was a decoy of course. Spain was chosen because it was loaded with Nazi spies that would probably take the message to Hitler.

Thanks to the ability to decode the German Enigma machine, the Allies could observe what was happening, and the message did indeed get to Hitler. Hitler sent 90,000 men to Greece, while the Allies invaded Sicily, toppling Mussolini and turning the course of the war.

The story was told in the 1956 film with Clifton Webb, The Man Who Never Was.

It occurred to me when reading about the British use of fictitious double agents, that this must have influenced Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, where Cary Grant’s Roger Thornhill was mistaken for George Kaplan, a spy who (HUGE SPOILER ALERT) ….

turned out to not exist.

Here’s the full article about Operation Mincemeat, which was also covered in a book by Ben Macintyre and made into a BBC documentary. Hare’s another article, this one from the New York Times, on Macintyre’s book and the operation (which was originally called Operation Trojan Horse).