Robotic Bobcat
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2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The RIPSAW-MS1 demonstrates its off-road capabilities during an exercise at the Fort Hood Robotics Rodeo. The RIPSAW is equipped with six claymore mines, can carry 5,000 pounds and tow multiple military vehicles. The RIPSAW is designed to be an unman... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Xbox-360 Robotic Controller
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FORT HOOD, Texas (Sept. 2, 2009) -- A Robotics Rodeo began Tuesday with exhibitors from all over America descending on Fort Hood to show off the latest advancements in robotics technology.

"If we're not fielding, we're failing; it's all about saving Soldiers' lives," said Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, III Corps commanding general. "It's not about technology demonstrations, not about how much money you can garner from the U.S. government, it's all about saving Soldiers lives."

Robotics are currently in use in many areas of the military. There are robotic doctor's assistants that video the Soldiers' wounds to enable long-distance monitoring of vital signs and allow consultations with distant medical specialists. Robots also search for and disassemble improvised explosive devices.

The most recognizable integration of robotics in the Army may be the unmanned aerial vehicles that provide surveillance and reconnaissance assets for warfighters such as the Predator.

The focus of the Robotics Rodeo is autonomous robotics capabilities. Autonomy allows robots to function without a user interface, which helps significantly in areas of low or no communication ability or when Soldiers have other tasks to focus on, said Derek Wadsworth, a robotics researcher and operator with Idaho National Laboratories.

"We don't want to give them (Soldiers) a tool that they have to focus on instead of focusing on the task," Wadsworth said. "We want to give the Soldiers a tool that acts as a companion, not something they have to babysit."

The three-day event is packed with more than 30 different exhibitors running their robots through field demonstrations. Soldiers and civilian evaluators are on-hand to give feedback based on the demos and hands-on experience.

The rodeo ends Friday and the evaluators will turn in their feedback sheets to help determine what systems will best meet their future warfighting needs.