Robot Combat

Russia is Developing Voice-Controlled Combat Robots: Report

The Russian military is testing voice-controlled combat drones for future battles, according to state media agency TASS. The Marker combat drones, which resemble tanks scaled down to the size of normal cars, are designed to go onto battlefields with humans and take orders the same way.

Steel Soldier

The military engineers working on the robots, technically known as unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), originally envisioned tablet computer-based controls but decided that was too unwieldy and that voice controls would be a smoother mechanism. Russia’s National Center for Development of Technologies and Basic Elements of Robotics is now working on the voice AI that will be embedded in the Marker. As the AI platform develops, the developers hope it will be able to combine commands with what is happening around it to make decisions.

“The Marker is learning to understand the received command and act, like a human,” Oleg Martyanov, who heads the center, told TASS. “Our goal is to teach the Marker to perform tasks on its own at a significant distance from the operator, at a distance determined by the robotic platform’s range.”

Right now, the controller can’t be further than about three miles away when giving orders, but the engineers want to increase that distance a hundredfold. Eventually, the drone is supposed to work out its own travel route and where it wants to go using airborne reconnaissance drones it will launch as it moves. Though the voice control is new, Russia has been working on UGVs for a few years, including deploying them in Syria, but they haven’t been a major part of Russian military actions.

Voice War

Anything from state-run media should be taken with a grain of salt, a big grain when the article brags about advanced military technology. Voice technology has advanced enormously in the last few years and no doubt militaries all over the world are experimenting with it quietly, but it feels far-fetched to think any military is ready to risk missions and lives on voice tech. Voice assistants still regularly mishear commands, and loud environments, like a battlefield, make it much worse. But Russia does seem keen on the idea. The country’s air force plans to use a voice assistant named Rita in the next version of the MiG-35 fighter jets to suggest ideas on what the pilot should do when a lot is happening at once, including during combat. Voice AI soldiers may be the future of fighting, but until they can understand requests for Baby Shark, it’s probably a bad idea to stake a war on them.


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