Fort Bliss (TX) - Somewhere in the Texas desert is a seven ton robot made of cold steel, uncaring circuits and it's capable of raining hot lead down on enemies of the United State. Just pay no attention to the cool little Iphone and Xbox 360 controllers. For the past few weeks, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and U.S. Army have been running the 'Crusher' six-wheeled robot through torturous recon and cave-clearing missions. By early reports, the robot has performed well and Army personnel have even adapted two popular gadgets to control the bot.
The Crusher was developed at the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute under DARPA's unmanned ground combat vehicles program. The bot carries long range cameras that can spot enemies two and a half miles away and has a large caliber gun mounted on top. Crusher borrows much of the autonomous vehicle sensing and control technology from vehicles we saw at the DARPA Urban and Grand Challenges. This should come as no surprise as Carnegie Mellon's 'Boss' bot won first place at last year's Urban Challenge. Carnegie Mellon came in second in the 2nd Grand Challenge.
Video courtesy of DARPA
In addition to being completely autonomous, Crusher can be remotely controlled thanks to a hacked together Iphone and Xbox 360 interface. The Iphone can receive vehicle updates while the Xbox controller can steer and fire the weapons.
The desert can be a tough place and DARPA officials say the bot can take tremendous punishment. Stephen Welby, director of DARPA's Tactical Technology Office told the Stars and Stripes , "The vehicle can go into places where, if you were following in a Humvee, you'd come out with spinal injuries." Thankfully Crusher doesn't carry a driver.
Crusher has spent the last two weeks on a 100 square kilometer course at Fort Bliss. The military has tortured the bot by running it over cars and speeding it on and off road. Crusher has a top speed of 26 MPH.
The Crusher robot is expected to enter service in a few years.