Marines Evade An AI Robot By Hiding In A Cardboard Box During Miltary Exercise


AI has outsmarted and taken over many jobs recently but still, it has a long way to go before it takes over or is given full control and responsibility. A recent and rather comedic case in point has surfaced showing a group of US Marines who managed to defeat a Pentagon AI test by hiding in a cardboard box.

The state-of-the-art robots used by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), had an easily manipulated weakness, according to an upcoming book called Four Battlegrounds: Power in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by a former policy analyst, Paul Scharre: Though they’re trained to identify human targets, the bots are easily fooled with the most lackluster of disguises. Funnily enough, this AI-equipped deadly robot was bested by a technique most known for its comedic inclusion in the Japanese stealth-action video game Metal Gear Solid.

Scharre describes a week during which DARPA calibrated its robot’s human recognition algorithm alongside a group of US Marines. The Marines and a team of DARPA engineers spent six days walking around the robot, training it to identify the moving human form. On the seventh day, the engineers placed the robot at the center of a traffic circle and devised a little game: The Marines had to approach the robot from a distance and touch the robot without being detected.

DARPA was quickly humbled. Scharre writes that all eight Marines were able to defeat the robot using techniques that could have come straight out of a Looney Tunes episode. Two of the Marines somersaulted toward the center of the traffic circle, thus using a form of movement the robot hadn’t been trained to identify. Another pair shuffled toward the robot under a cardboard box. One Marine even stripped a nearby fir tree and was able to reach the robot by walking “like a fir tree” (the meaning of which Twitter users are still working to figure out).

“You could hear them giggling the whole time. Like Bugs Bunny in a Looney Tunes cartoon, sneaking up on Elmer Fudd in a cardboard box,” reads an excerpt in Scharre’s book. Has Solid Snake ever laughed whilst crawling in a box?

Though it is unclear when the exercises in Scharre’s book took place, or what improvements have been made to the systems since, DARPA robots’ antics have long faced obstacles to their performance, including poor balance and concerns over their potential to cause accidental killings due to AI behaving in unpredictable ways.


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