Israel has deployed a new robot that can operate “24 hours a day, 7 days a week.” According to the press release, the robot is a semi-autonomous machine equipped with 7.62-millimeter machine guns. It is ultimately intended to stand as a substitute for combat soldiers, and although there are many military robots that came before it, it’s one of the first robots in the world that is actually able to work autonomously like a soldier.  

The new military robot is called the Jaguar, and it utilizes a number of technologies to perform its operations, such as high-resolution cameras, transmitters, powerful headlights, and a remote-controlled PA system. 

Using this tech, it can navigate its way to a designated area and even spot obstacles on the way using an advanced driving system. However, it typically requires a human operator to tell it to fire its machine gun or to self-destruct if it has been compromised. 

That said, the Jaguar’s software does allow it to automatically adjust its aim to better target whatever a human operator tells it to focus on. And perhaps most notably, it also has the ability to fire autonomously in certain scenarios, such as when it is returning fire. It can also self-destruct on its own in specific instances. 

The killer robot controversy 

The Jaguar is just the latest machine to head to a border that is already equipped with drones, machine gun turrets, armed soldiers, and a naval blockade. While it most definitely will add to the protection of Israeli soldiers, it will also definitely make the (already tense) Israeli-Palestinian relations even worse. 

Those behind the work state that it will ultimately reduce harm. “We have led a groundbreaking technological development, an independent robot that reduces the combat soldier’s friction with the enemy and prevents risks to human life,” Lt. Col. Nathan Kuperstein, Head of Autonomy and Robotics at the Israeli Defense Force (IDF)’s Land Technology Division, remarked in a statement. “It even knows how to charge itself, almost like an iRobot.”

But others aren’t convinced. In an open letter published by The Future of Life Institute, a number of AI and Robotics experts argued that autonomous (or semi-autonomous) weapons systems cannot be deployed responsibly or ethically.