June 3, 2007 Love them or hate them, TASER stun guns have become an essential and effective part of law enforcement armory. Perhaps their main drawback has been that even the long-range wireless shotgun-mounted TASER XREP puts a police officer within 30 feet of a potentially dangerous suspect before they're in range. Now, a new partnership between TASER and iRobot will see the construction of TASER-wielding robots that can be sent in to incapacitate violent suspects without ever exposing police officers to the risk of harm. What's more, TASER has released their Remote Area Denial (TRAD) system, an unmanned device that operates in a network to identify and incapacitate intruders in secured areas. It all points towards an interesting future with embedded moral implications; how long will it be until suspects are told "you have 15 seconds to comply?"
TASER International recently announced the forming of a strategic alliance with iRobot corporation. Under the terms of this alliance the two companies will work collaboratively to develop a new robotic capability utilizing TASER technologies. This combination of capabilities will allow law enforcement, federal, and military users to employ TASER technology from an iRobot platform at a safe distance to engage, incapacitate, and control dangerous suspects without exposing those personnel, the suspect, or bystanders to unnecessary risks.
As the first step in this alliance, the two companies have integrated a TASER X26 unit into the iRobot PackBot Explorer. The Explorer is a twin-tank-track remote-controlled robot that can relay real-time audio and video back to its operator at a remote location. This proof-of-concept integration is being shown to Law Enforcement and Military customers to explore customer needs and requirements. The result of these customer interactions will lead to the development of products that may include a full line of TASER kits for iRobot platforms or a family of fully integrated robots.
"TASER International is very excited to be entering into this alliance with a forward thinking and proactive company such as iRobot," said Tom Smith, Chairman of TASER International. "We have been working on expanding the delivery platforms of our proven TASER Neuromuscular Incapacitation technology. Integrating our technology with the increasingly necessary capability of remotely controlled or autonomous robotic systems is a natural fit."
In unrelated news, TASER has released their TASER Remote Area Denial (TRAD) system, a three-legged, rugged standalone device with infra-red cameras and the ability to discern friend from foe. Operating in a TASERNET network, the devices are designed to identify intruders and bring them down with TASER cartridges, keeping them incapacitated until response teams can arrive.
Were the iRobot and TRAD systems to be integrated together, the potential exists to have an autonymous, patrolling robot guard authorised to inflict incapacitating pain on those it deems "intruders." A scary thought - is it time to look at incorporating Asmiov's three laws of robotics into international law?