China shows off machine-gun-toting robot dog and its AI-powered puppy

China has shown off a pair of robot dogs – one of them toting a machine gun and the other powered by AI.

State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) posted news of the digital hounds earlier this week.

Both strongly resemble Boston Dynamics’s “Spot” robo-canine. The larger model, said to weigh in at 50kg (110¼ pounds), is shown carrying a machine gun and advancing while being remotely operated by a Chinese soldier who causes the weapon to fire.

“It can serve as a new member in our urban combat operations, replacing our members to conduct reconnaissance and identify enemies and strike the target during our training,” explained Chen Wei, a Chinese soldier.

The other computerized canine, a lightweight 15kg (30 pounds) beast, is said to have the ability to find its own way around a battlefield thanks to AI, and to “transmit information about on-site obstacles such as wire fences, discarded tires, and tire spikes.”

The dog can also jump, and move forward and backwards. Lying down is another option – perhaps to duck under incoming ordnance, or ask for a belly rub.

Here’s the vid of the puppy, and some drones the Chinese military has implemented for other tasks.

Youtube Video

China’s machine-gun-toting robo-dogs are not unique, nor is its approach to the binary beasts. the US military has explored the same idea and, like China, wants a human to pull the trigger rather than letting robot dogs with machine guns off the leash.

That approach puts both nations in alignment with current international sentiment that autonomous weapons are simply too dangerous to be unleashed – a mistake made by an AI-controlled weapon could escalate conflicts and result in more harm to humans.

China’s military didn’t reveal whether its robo-dogs are considered ready for frontline action, but their use in joint military exercises with Cambodia suggests that scenario is under active consideration.

Just how useful the creatures will be is, however, questionable. China Central Television reported the beasts’ belly-mounted batteries can power the machines for between two and four hours – not a vast amount of time in a real conflict. ®

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Simon Sharwood