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Linux robots elicit human responses

May 24, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

U.S. soldiers in Iraq are forming emotional ties to Linux-powered robots, according to Reuters. iRobot's robots — used for tasks such as explosives defusing and cave exploration — are being given nicknames and winning loyalty, to the extent that soldiers request repairs for their favorites, Reuters says.

(Click for larger view of iRobot's EOD)

Currently, iRobot robots perform 600 to 700 missions a day, Reuters says. The international news agency did not specify whether the robots are forming reciprocal emotional ties with soldiers.

To date, the U.S. Navy has ordered about $43M worth of robots from iRobot, Reuters reports, while the Army has also ordered iRobot robots for its Future Combat Systems program. iRobot doubled its first-quarter revenue, to $38.2 million, compared to the year before.

iRobot's PackBot Scout, Explorer, and EOD
(Click any image to enlarge)

All of iRobot's military robots run Linux, the company told LinuxDevices recently. iRobot sources its Linux from military RTOS (real-time OS) and Linux specialist LynuxWorks.

iRobot got its start in military robotics because military contracts proved easier to win for a robotics company than commercial venture funding, the Reuters article suggests. However, iRobot is perhaps best known now for its civilian robots, which include vacuuming “Roomba” and mopping “Scooba” models. Some two million Roombas have sold to date.

iRobot's civilian robots are relatively simple devices that do not really need advanced computing intelligence, and hence probably do not run Linux. However, iRobot “envisions a machine that would instill similar feelings in civilians,” Reuters says.

The complete Reuters story is available here (MSNBC). For more information on iRobot's Linux-based R-Gator, PackBot Scout, Explorer, and EOD (explosive ordinance disposal), see our earlier coverage.

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