In the world of Robopocalypse
, humanoid robots called "Safety and Pacification" units are in common use by the military. These unarmed humanoid robots are sent out to patrol the dangerous streets of an occupied country and to serve as cultural liaisons between local armed forces personnel and indigenous peoples.
A humanoid robot is a general-purpose robot that looks a lot like a person, complete with a head, torso, arms, and legs. The "total package" humanoid can walk bipedally, like a person, and use its hands to dexterously manipulate objects in the world. It is human-shaped, but a humanoid robot needn't be indistinguishable from a person.
It was fun to think about humanoid robots in the military while writing the novel, but could it really happen? Well, I believe it's possible. Here's why:
1. There is a one-to-one mapping between the human and the humanoid body. Robots aren't that smart yet, so it is likely that a human will have to control the robot at some point through telepresence. Human-shaped robots are infinitely easier to manipulate because there is a one-to-one mapping between man and machine. Instead of shoving around a non-intuitive joystick, slide your hands into gloves that map your fingers to robot fingers thousands of miles away.
2. Humanoid robots take advantage of human environments and equipment. Every urban environment on the planet is designed for a very specific type of animal: homo sapien. We humans come in a very specific range of sizes and weights, and our environments tend to have specific temperature, vibration, and noise limits. Humanoids are well-suited to navigating environments designed for humans.
Plus, most military supplies are designed for use by humans. That means a humanoid robot can wear human body armor, boots, and camouflage. It could also potentially pilot human vehicles. Rather than creating an autonomous vehicle from scratch, just put a humanoid robot in the driver's seat of a standard vehicle. And when a robot squad is on the go and under fire, it always helps to be able to scavenge enemy weapons and improvise.
3. The locals could interact with humanoid robots. War is becoming less about conventional fighting on a mass scale and more about cultural awareness. A humanoid robot provides the opportunity for some kind of natural human interaction with non-combatants. Instead of a faceless drone overhead, unarmed humanoid robots could go on patrol while wearing local garb, speaking the local language, and obeying local customs.
Humanoid robots may or may not find a way onto battlefields of the future, but regardless, I had a great time doing my best to create a believable scenario in which "Safety and Pacification" units roam the streets, getting to know the neighbors.