SAN FRANCISCO, 13 JULY 2010 - The Demilitarized Zone ("DMZ") is a 160-mile long, 2.5-mile wide strip of land that separates the two Koreas. South Korea has recently bumped up the security on its side of the DMZ with something straight out of your favorite sci-fi novel or videogame: a machinegun-equipped robot.
According to Stars and Stripes, the robot in question is the SGR-1, created by Samsung. It is equipped with a 5.5-milimeter machine gun and has both heat and motion detectors that can identify and shoot a potential target more than two miles away. In addition, the SGR-1 is capable of firing rubber bullets as a warning.
So the burning question: Why use robots, aside from the fact that it sounds absolutely awesome?
Huh Kwang-hak, a spokesman for Samsung Techwin (the manufacturer of the SGR-1 robot), told Stars and stripes that the robots will not be used to replace soldiers, but to work alongside them in defensive matters.
So should we fear the immediate threat of super battles between robots on the battlefield?
The answer is no. First off, the SGR-1 is a purely defensive mechanism in that it is a stationary robot, which means that it cannot physically "get up and move about", so it operates more like a tower or "turret gun". Second, they are human-controlled. When the SGR-1 detects a potential threat, an alarm goes off and notifies a command center. The operator then uses the robots' video and audio communication equipment to talk to the identified threat before ever firing a shot. From there, the Commanders make the final decision on whether or not to fire.
Lastly, it should be noted that while SGR-1s have the capability of automatic surveillance, they cannot automatically fire on their own at detected foreign objects or figures.
For obvious security reasons, locations of these robots have not been disclosed nor do we even know how many there are throughout the DMZ. (Or do you really want to find out yourself the hard way?) We can say, however, that it takes about one day to setup these robots and that they carry a price tag of US$200,000 each.
The robots were actually deployed onto the DMZ more than a month ago and apparently their presence will continue at least through the end the year.
So it may not be the action-packed robot free for all you were expecting, but I think that's probably better for us.
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