Reexamining Human Emotion in Military Technology as the Robots Approach
After seeing the Marines’ failure to strike moving human targets in 2008, a Marine Corps official acknowledged the need to alter training procedures. In 2011, the Corps showcased a fleet of autonomous, human-sized robotic targets on mobile platforms. The beige humanoid torsos with their pasted-on paper faces and costume clothing were a little rough. However, the shooters were stunned. Cortisol levels surged as the targets moved closer, leaving even seasoned combatants trembling and on edge.
After languishing for more than a decade in what is known as the Valley of Death, robots are ready to reappear. The gulf between promising new military technology and its acceptance and use is sometimes referred to as the valley of death. In subsequent test comments acquired by POLITICO from a Defense Department source, a Marine evaluator said, “I enjoy how it adds emotion to training.” Director of the Defense Innovation Unit Michael Brown resigned, citing a “glaring flaw” in the military’s approach to commercial innovations. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine demonstrates that ground fighting remains a vital military capacity.
The robotic targets are now in Poland, where they are used to train the Ukrainian military. Marathon robots are robust, autonomous and capable of 11 mph movement. A one-year lease for a trailer containing eight robots costs over $1 million. Executives of Marathon assert that their training-as-a-service strategy mitigates a portion of the acquisition risk. The Army decided to forego the existing technology from Marathon in favor of a custom solution from rival Pratt & Miller.
is perplexed by the Army’s strategy. Alford is pleased that Marines will finally have access to a revolutionary tool for warfighting.