Prototype robot targets military, police needs

IRobot Corp. plans next week to debut a prototype remote controlled robot armed with a Taser electroshock weapon that it said can help the military on the battlefield or law enforcement agencies in dangerous situations.

The small hybrid machine is based on Burlington, Mas.-based iRobot's Pentium-based PackBot Explorer robot. The hybrid, which adds a Taser X26 stun gun, stun gun to the robot, was developed jointly by iRobot and Taser International Inc.

The hybrid will be unveiled during the annual Taser user conference that begins on Monday.

The companies hope the diminutive robot - which measures eight inches high and 16-inches wide -- will be deployed and remotely used to do things such as stun or control dangerous persons while keeping army personnel or police and bystanders safe and secure.

"IRobot continually looks for new or proven technologies from best-of-industry companies to integrate on our battle-tested robots," said Joe Dyer, president of iRobot's government and industrial robots unit, in a statement. "The addition of Taser technologies onto iRobot platforms will provide a critical tool for SWAT, law enforcement and military to handle a variety of dangerous scenarios."

Resembling a remote controlled tank toy minus the turret, the PackBot Explorer sits on a shock resistant chassis mounted on two treads with flippers that enable it to cover rough terrain at speeds of up to five miles-per-hour.

The new device also carries a camera mounted on a 12-inch mast. The camera is capable of tilting and rotating to provide greater visibility to its operator during scouting missions.

Taser officials said the next step in the joint development process will depend on feedback received by military and law enforcement personnel at the conference

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