There was lots of robot news last week, from 'bots who clean the streets to ones who can laugh at knock-knock jokes, but the most important robot news this week comes from Iraq. That's where the U.S. Army has begun deploying "special weapons observation remote reconnaissance direct action systems," or SWORDS, the first robots outfitted with machine guns to be used in combat. These machines are updated versions of bomb-disposal robots that have been used since the beginning of the war.
While the idea of a killer robot is distinctly frightening, these machines aren't exactly thinking for themselves and shooting with abandon. They're remotely controlled by soldiers, which we find comforting; they're no more sentient than remote controlled cars. And though they're controlled with "kill switches," it's only so that they can self-destruct should anything go wrong. Still, a mini unmanned tank with built-on weaponry is something that until now you we would have only expected to see in movies.