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CIA May Have Bought Faulty Drone Software

"Furthermore," the report says, "because operators are based thousands of miles away from the battlefield, and undertake operations entirely through computer screens and remote audio feed, there is a risk of developing a 'PlayStation' mentality to killing. States must ensure that training programs for drone operators who have never been subjected to the risks and rigors of battle instill respect for [International Humanitarian Law] and adequate safeguards for compliance with it."

While the robotics industry is in a slump, there has been widespread support for robots that perform life-threatening missions, such as the bomb-disposal and surveillance robots from iRobot (IRBT). That was a talking point at a gathering of robotics experts in Microsoft's (MSFT) New England Research and Development Center.

"There's incredible headroom and growth in the military market," said Michael Greeley, a general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners, a venture firm that invests in companies such as PolyRemedy, a startup that makes wound-care robots, at the gathering of entrepreneurs and investors in Cambridge, Mass.

With drones, the military is in the position of weighing the benefits of protecting American soldiers by replacing them with robots against the risk of inaccurate targeting.

"In the military, killing people is not the objective," Peterson, Intelligent Integration Systems' chairman, says. "The objective is to win over the hearts and minds of people. You can kill a thousand bad guys, but if you kill one civilian, you've turned 10,000 people against you. When you separate yourself from the consequences of your actions, I don't care if you're playing video games, fighting a war or running a company -- there's something really wrong."

-- Reported by Carmen Nobel in Boston.



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