Murphy's Law: The Baghdad Droid Hospital


June 6, 2007: In Iraq, the terrorists have come to realize that the small robots American troops are using, are sometimes more dangerous than the Americans themselves. There are several thousand of these small (under 100 pounds, and look like a miniature tank) droids in use, and they have become a primary target for the terrorists. The most common use of these robots is to check out objects that might be roadside bombs. Terrorists will detonate their roadside bomb if they see a robot going to check it out, and will fire on the droids as well. Users have come to rely on the droids for all sorts of things, and have adapted to the terrorist attacks on the droids, by treating the robots like "one of the team." Thus troops will provide covering fire for droids, as necessary, and will not send the robots out on suicide missions unless it's really important. They will also recover damaged droids, make battlefield repairs if they can (some guys have developed reputations as "droid medics"). There is even a droid hospital in Iraq (Joint Robotic Repair and Fielding Activity), that repairs about 400 broken or "wounded" droids a week. About that often, the staff there will have to deal with one or more teary eyed troops, carrying the blasted remains of their droid, and wanting to know if their little guy can be rebuilt. Many of the droids are given names, which are painted on the robot chassis.

One of the proposed upgrades for combat droids is voice recognition (so troops can give it verbal commands) and a voice synthesizer, so that the droid can, well, talk. This will be used, with foreign language software, to enable the droid to talk to locals, and, in English to its users. This will, no doubt, make the emotional bond with the troops even stronger.


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