back to article DARPA: Send limbless troops back to war with robo-arms

Radical Pentagon boffins have hit upon a new plan which will assist the USA in its efforts to meet the demand for combat troops in the expanding Wars On Stuff. Disabled servicemen who have lost arms or legs in the fighting thus far will be swiftly equipped with highly capable, ruggedised robotic replacement limbs and sent …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. ElReg!comments!Pierre
    Thumb Up

    ONLY the disabled?

    That's unfair! I certainly could use an extra limb or two, for the situations when my 5 natural ones are not enough.

    Imagine: no more running after the bus only to miss it, no more hip fracture in the winter (or on a slippery bathroom floor), no more one-handed webbrowsing, ...

    On a separate note, I am only moderately amused by the apparent death of my trusty fish, Wanda. A whole Friday without fortunes, that's beyond a light-hearted joke. I'm considering legal action. Well, at least the coffee machine and new server are still up so it could be worst.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Dear me

    How about ending war instead?

    1. mike panero

      so genetic engineering

      is that what you want? GM Humans? Is it?


  3. andybird123

    10 ms latency?

    I don't think the 10 millisecond latency mentioned in the spec is intended to suggest that it will make human reaction time quicker... it means that the interface itself should *introduce* no more than 10msec additional latency over and above that which is inherent in the operators normal reaction time

  4. Michael C
    Thumb Up

    Nice, April 1...

    Damn good attempt!

  5. Simon Holt

    What day is it? ummm

    Well if no-one else is gonna say it - I for one welcome our new fleshy-robo-masters. Crunchy humans.

  6. thecakeis(not)alie


    Either this is the most epic April fools yet, or the most heartless, soulless thing the American government has done to their fighting men and women since starting wars over oil that put them in this situation in the first place.

    Granted, American soldiers are almost universally "the poor." Also, "the poor" have less than no social status in the US and thusly are only marginally considered citizens. (Less in many ways than fictional individuals such as corporations.) Still...were this a real project, it would be a marked shift into the macabre even for them.

    I choose to believe April fools, because I refuse to believe that even Americans could be so cruel to their own as to expect soldiers missing limbs to return to theatre.

    1. Combat Wombat

      since when

      So the US government have a sense of humor ?

      They are totally serious about is, plus it's dated March 30th.

      So yes.. it's the heartless... soul-less option

    2. lIsRT

      It's already happening.

      (for lower limbs)

    3. skeptical i

      I'm not dot-mil, nor do I have friends who are, but ...

      ... I have read and heard many interviews with wounded warriors who want to go "back there" -- because they feel they need to complete the mission, they don't want to "abandon" their buddies, or other reasons. Now, there are probably many woundeds who are quite happy to be back stateside, thankyouverymuch, but if soldiers genuinely want to go back and the technology will allow them to do so reasonably competently they should be able to do so.

      True, many who enlist are coerced by poverty and lack of other options (and may want to go "back" despite injury for same reasons), but I don't think that's a good reason to condemn the technological advances involved.

      1. thecakeis(not)alie

        @skeptical i

        I am not condeming the technology at all. I am condeming the propsed use. There's a difference.

    4. Saganhill
      Thumb Down

      Most Soldiers are not "poor"

      I can tell you first hand that most of what you state is not true. Most (99%) US soldiers come from Middle class or upper middle class families. In fact, one of my freinds who has a 19 year old tried to get into the Marines and was rejected because of a DUI. His father makes about $75 thousand a year. The US armed service will not consider you for service if you have a felony. They (recruters) will give you a hard time and even reject you if you have had run-ins with the local law. If you show any drug use through a blood test, you wont make it.

      1. thecakeis(not)alie


        What the nether blinking bitrot are you on about? Since when is "poor" automatically conflated with "felon?" I should also point out that the American definition of "middle class" is far wider than that of other countries. A lot of folks Americans consider "middle class" would be well below the poverty line here in Canada.

        If you are going to stand up and say that the majority of American troops are from well off families - let's say $40K a year and up - then I demand proof. Your statement simply goes against every scrap of evidence I have ever seen. Certainly there exist truly middle-class (perhaps even upper middle class) troops in the American armed forces.

        They are however by no means the majority.

  7. mr-tom


    Anybody remember the 1993/4 classic by Bullfrog?

    Seems to be marching ever closer.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DARPA for once failing to think big enough

    Why not build the gun into the prosthesis?

    1. Combat Wombat


      That would add complexity, and reduce functionality

      I am just waiting for them to go the full battle suit.. with the poor limbless guy inside.

      Why must dystopian Sci Fi be so right !

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge


        Forget the battlesuits. Put them in a spaceship and let them sing.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mobile Infantry

    Made me the man I am today!

  10. Adam Foxton

    And here comes the Age of the Mechs

    With hundreds of thousands of troops deployed around the world by us Westerners, the chances are that- as with almost everything awesome- it will be the military will be driving us towards having many more cyborgs in our world.

    The next 10 years should be an interesting time. We'll have down-and-out Iraq veterans on the streets of America begging for AA batteries, drives to push for a standard pinout for limbs (leading to the mass production of artificial limbs- the 'singularity point' for mechanical arms going from niche to accepted), Apple arms that are skinny and all chrome, Sony limbs with implanted GPS user-tracking and accelerometers to stop their limbs being used for anything unsavoury, the ability to download 'muscle memory' from one person to another, etc.

    Not to mention the massive legal battles over, for example, whether someone should be allowed to drive in case they short out- and even more fundamental things like "do they class as disabled if they're more able for a lot of the time"?

    Also look out for criminals stealing limbs to commit crimes with, a huge Daily Mail outcry of "oh, the inhumanity", major religious problems as people try to figure out where your soul is (not to mention the philosophical question of "if you've gradually replaced every part of your body, is it still you?"), and the development of wireless links for these limbs providing the ability to sit at home plugged into a computer while an 'avatar' (controlled as individual limbs by your own brain) does the real world stuff for you. Or even multiple avatars from the same person.

    Then you've got hacking of the wireless links for remote torture or 'Wrong Trousers' style remote-controlling of a person to get them to commit criminal acts.

    Next 10 years- an interesting time.

    1. mike panero

      way better

      than the same old willy jokes coughing their way up my esophagus

      Did I type esophagus?

      Well I must have been using a spell checker, honest

  11. Hombre sin nombre

    Does amanfrommars1 work in the Pentagon now?

    Look at the acronym density in those quotes from the proposal.

  12. Knochen Brittle

    "Many wounded warriors with upper-limb amputation would like to return to their units in the field"

    For sure, there's nothing somebody who's been blownaparte once already wants more than to have another go, just to really push their blasted luck.

    Sweet Jeezis, when oh when will these Pentagoons stop guzzling their own shit?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sort of like ghost in the shell

      I can imagine the army making a deal with limbless soldiers:

      "Come back and fight for us, and we'll give you another arm."

      Even somebody sick of being a soldier would change their tune if they knew they could be fixed again.

      Although this doesn't seem very cost-effective, there's no shortage of eager recruits, each of which is considerably cheaper than a robo-arm.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @iron oxide

        The US relies on a core of highly disciplined and skilled infantry who can't easily be replaced. One experience soldier is worth ten new recruits. Not such a big price difference when you take that into account.

    2. Dave Bell

      Old Soldiers Never Die...

      It's complicated. Some of those disabled veterans would jump at the chance, if you could assure that they wouldn't be endangering other soldiers.

      Part of why soldiers fight is that they don't want to let down their mates. Part of effective treatment of PTSD can be finding the something useful, so that the victim doesn't feel useless. This isn't going to be something everyone will want to do, and they might not be going back into the infantry, but it does make some sense.

  13. Christoph

    Been done

    So who's been reading Bernard Wolfe's "Limbo" ?

  14. Anonymous John

    Because of funding problems

    DARPA can only afford $6 million dollars per soldier.

  15. Leeroy

    I know what the date is...

    But the article is still in bad taste....

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Just to be clear...

    Many injured soldiers want to get back to the front line. Go to a veterans hospital in any country and chat to some of the highly injured soldiers. Many of them just want to get back with their mates and carry on as before.

    The most famous story of this has to be Douglas Bader. Injured in a plane crash before the Second World War and losing both of his legs, he got himself back to a point where he could fly on his false legs. He then successfully led "Big Wings" during the Battle of Britain. He was eventually shot down and became a Prisoner of War. He took part in numerous escape attempts during the war, eventually ending up at Colditz. The first escape attempt he volunteered for at Colditz was across the roofs.

    Please don't underestimate the willingness of troops to do their duty. There are exceptions - such as conscripts in Vietnam during the latter part of that war - but often volunteer troops are keen to get back into the fight.

  17. Mr Mark V Thomas

    Re: Been done

    According to the background timeline to the Cyberpunk RPG, first published in 1988, the U.S first uses "Cyber-Soldiers" during the first Central American War of the mid 1990's...

    (Basically, the "War On Drugs" becomes literal as the U.S invades several Central American countries (namely Panama, Nicuragua & Colombia) in order to stop the flow of hard drugs from entering the U.S...).

    Mine's the SP15 armoured coat, with the Techtronica volt pistol in the pocket...

  18. Johan Bastiaansen

    We can rebuild him

    We have the technology...

    Or do you prefer robocop?

    So now those DARPA wimps are sending in the handicapped eh?

    I have a brilliant idea (if I say so myself). Why don't we send the warmongers in ! ! !

  19. Tom 38
    Thumb Up

    Warhammer 40k Dreadnoughts

    Almost certainly prior art in this area, but that's what came to my mind first:

    1. enerider

      Beat me to it!

      Dreadnoughts certainly came to mind - here's hoping we don't get to Titans just yet...:D

    2. Yesnomaybe


      it'll be like THIS:

  20. Jacob Lipman

    Fantastic technology put to a good use

    If this technology is deployed, it will get to the point where the government will be pressured to provide it to injured soldiers as a matter of course, as their due for having been so grievously injured - and I think that is absolutely the right thing to do.

    As it is now, injured soldiers who recover sufficiently are sent right back out to war zones. If an amputation can be repaired in a manner that restores function to a level equal to or greater than that enjoyed before the injury, I see no reason why the same should not be the case. Knowing how my buddies that have gone in to the armed forces tend to think, there will be a whole lot of "holy shit, that's cool!" from a returning soldier's brothers in arms, and not a lot of negative reaction.

    Without tactile feedback, this technology will not be good enough. Sensitivity to temperature, and the ability to feel what the artificial limb is touching are both important, the latter moreso than the former, especially for the sake of handling weapons.

    Extremely high reliability is absolutely vital - an accidental discharge caused by a malfunctioning limb is absolutely unacceptable, and creates a massive liability headache.

    Those who have commented on seeing this technology come to fruition over the next decade are being overly optimistic. I can see prosthetic legs being sufficiently ruggedised for military use, but the complexity involved in a functional neurally-interfaced hand are an order of magnitude greater. I would be shocked and delighted to see prosthetic hands that meet DARPA's criteria within 20 years.

  21. Yesnomaybe


    bother making an arm, just graft a gun to them.

  22. anarchic-teapot

    Already happened

    A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. DARPA Vader, anyone?

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Oh dear...

    I think there are plenty of people, sorry correction, relatives of people, who would prefer something which made the US a little slower on the trigger, not faster!

    Mine's the bullet (and flame) proof one.

  24. tempemeaty

    Armed military is a re "arm"ed populace

    If you can think it you can build it. Let it be. Finally from this we'll get new lives for those who've lost limbs as the technology finds it's way into the civilian sector.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Halo

    @Just to be clear.

    "Please don't underestimate the willingness of troops to do their duty. There are exceptions - such as conscripts in Vietnam during the latter part of that war - but often volunteer troops are keen to get back into the fight."

    Wasn't known as 'fragging'.

  26. henrydddd


    This article has changed my life. Before reading this article, I thought that the "Mad Max" movies accurately described the future of the world. Now I think that the "Terminator" movies will do a better job of showing our future.

  27. Naughtyhorse


    jingoistic, trigger happy merkins with speeded up reactions?

    just great! thats excatly what we need.

    cant wait fort he blue on blue fest to commence

  28. William Higinbotham


    Has anyone figured how to protect these poor folks if they get caaried away masterbaiting?

    It's got a hold on me!!! Yikes!

    1. Adam Foxton

      "It was like

      being trapped in a milking machine!"

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As usual, the Japanese are ahead on this one...

    ...and already have genetically-engineered teenage-girl/warplane hybrids in action.

    (possibly mild NSFW depending on your workplace)

  30. Graham Bartlett

    Hope this wasn't an April Fool

    If there's anything worthy of a damn sight more investment than it currently gets, it's improved prosthetics. If UK gov put the price of even a single Typhoon jet into prosthetics research, things would seriously start looking up.

    1. Shadowthrone

      One point a lot of people are missing....

      So much of the technology we take for granted today, even advances in medical science, are as a direct result of research brought about by the needs of the military and their troops etc. I say let them go ahead with this line of research if it means that the advanced prosthetics will make wheir way into the mainsteam with time too.

      As to those who cannot believe that injured veterans want to get back into the fray, you would be surprised at just how many soliders would give anything to be able to rejoin their comrades in the field. How many feel like they are letting their friends down by being unable to return. I, personally, do not understand that mindset as I cannot think of anything more horrendous than having to be in conflict. However, I can fully respect them for having that mindset and the courage to put themselves in harms way for the benefit of others.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like