First world project taking Australian robotic warfare to the next generation

Australian soldiers it could soon be directing robots with hand gestures, doing away with clunky remote controls, in a high-tech world first.

Edith Cowan University in Western Australia is working with robotics company Chironix, augmented reality provider Agili8 and manufacturer Motium to take Australia’s defense technology into the next generation.

“Optimizing the current utility of robotics technology in the Australian Defense Force requires integrating robots into the human operating environment where they can be controlled, at least partially, by a human operator,” said ECU’s Dr Syed Gilani.

Australian Defense Force contingent at the RAAF base in Townsville, Queensland, before departing for the Solomon Islands
Australian soldiers could soon be commanding robots with a series of hand gestures. (Supplied/ADF)

Instead of responding to the remote control, the robots will be taught to recognize hand gestures made by the operator, but they don’t need to be in sight of each other.

The operator will wear a pair of special augmented reality glasses with a camera mounted on them, which will pick up and transmit orders over “considerable” distances.

“This use of AI and AR on the battlefield will improve responsiveness and reduce cognitive load on the soldier and is just the beginning of applications for this technology,” said Agili8 CTO Chris Markovic.

According to the developers, the technology is a natural progression in communication for soldiers on the front lines.

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“There is a long pedigree of Australian soldiers using hand gestures to silently communicate with each other,” said Dr. Owen Carter, principal investigator for Chironix Robotics.

“The last thing the average digger wants to do is fiddle with a robot’s remote control while being shot at. Better to point at a robot with one hand while keeping the other hand firmly on your gun.”

The world’s first project is expected to take a year and a half to develop, before being submitted to the Defense Science Center.

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