Valve's Steam Deck is making headlines in Ukraine as the a new tool for the Ukrainian army. To clarify: a recent posting demonstrated a remote-controlled machine gun turret that seems to be powered (or at least controlled by) the popular portable PC gaming handheld device.
Images shared on ТРО Меdia's Facebook account (h/t GamingOnLinux) show various aspects of the turret design and soldiers deploying it for testing in a field. In one of the seven images, a remote operator is seen clearly holding a shiny Steam Deck, with the machine gun turret in the background. It would be even more interesting to see what the remote control interface looks like, but perhaps the interface/UI is a military secret.
TPO Media shared some brief background information on the remote machine gun turret alongside the photos. Called 'Sablya,' the turret is an "automated remote controlled" device, which suggests that the turret might operate with some degree of autonomy. It's possible that, as well as manual remote monitoring, aiming, and firing, the Sablya may be able to be programmed with the Steam Deck to mark targets and let the gun do its job as quickly and efficiently as possible.
TPO Media shared some details about how the Sablya can be operated remotely from up to half a kilometer (500m) away — which is nearly one-third of a mile, keeping the operator out of hot zones. The turret seems like it will be used for both stationary operation and vehicle mounting.
Additionally, the Sablya is able to defeat low-flying enemy drones, according to the TRO Media post — which could be pivotal now that Russia is said to be quietly acquiring more of these types of weapons from China.
pic.twitter.com/uI69kvXl2IApril 25, 2023
We found some footage showing the same Sablya turret device in action (scroll down to the reply Tweet) — you can see the machine gun firing, but there's only a brief glimpse of the Steam Deck.
Finally, TPO Media says that Sablya isn’t limited to the weapon being demonstrated in the images and video. The system/chassis can accommodate a variety of anti-personnel and anti-tank weaponry.
Imagine Boston Dynamic's Atlas robot. Except it has a .45 auto-cannon mounted to each shoulder like the Predator's plasma cannon. There's no stopping it. it can literally just run through a brick wall to get to it's target.
Now imagine it's being controlled by a bunch of 12 year olds that think they're playing a round of Call of Duty, but in reality it's a 10 foot tall armored robot in another country taking out targets with all the response time and accuracy of a call of duty player. Terrifying.
Just imagine a half dozen guns, not assault rifles just pistols or shotguns. Not much use in a battlefield but terrifying in a school. Much less vulnerable to counter fire
Wars are evil
Gaining access to the hardware and the whole comms suite is completely different.
Seriously though, probably because reflexes is the very first thing that you lose as you age.
To clarify, we made a skid-steer platform with a camera and turret mounted. The turret has a paintball gun mounted (lethal remote platforms are illegal,and you WILL be raided by the ATF!) We are using an ESP32-based Arduino to control it, with SPI interface to the turret. WiFi for the comms to the ESP and camera.
Our setup allows control through (almost) any Android device, including phones, tablets, and Chromecast (Android TV). Primary input is an Xbox controller, via Bluetooth, it also has onscreen controls. We chose not to control through a webpage, but it's certainly possible.
Even with direct WiFi connection (no router), we see a noticeable lag in controls. Especially with video streaming. I have no idea how they expect to compensate for lag when you have a moving target. I guess they are better optimized than my setup.