“Number 5 stupid name … want to be Kevin or Dave!” – Johnny Five
These real-life Johnny Fives – actually called PackBots – are being drafted into service during this year’s FIFA World Cup.
Fans of bad ‘80s films and lovers of all things robotic are all well aware of Johnny Five, the military robot from the movie Short Circuit that was given sentience as a result of a lightning strike. Now, nearly forty years later, real-life military robots look remarkably like Johnny Five, which means either that film’s creators were remarkably prescient, or the military has been remarkably slow to develop its robots. Either way, these real-life Johnny Fives – actually called PackBots – are being drafted into service during this year’s FIFA World Cup.
The 2014 World Cup (think of it as the World Series of soccer, only it truly represents the world) is being held in Brazil. There’s been a lot of speculation about whether Brazil is capable of handling such a massive event (the World Cup usually attracts around 3,000,000 spectators), but one thing Brazil is clearly taking seriously is security.
PackBots are manufactured by iRobot, the tech firm best known for designing the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaners. PackBots have been in use by the U.S. Army for over a decade and are currently deployed in both Iraq and Afghanistan. They weigh only 40 pounds and can fit in a standard Army backpack.
PackBots are powered by Pentium processors and controlled via joystick. Their top speed is six mph, they can easily climb stairs (or grades up to 60-degrees), they can survive a six-foot drop onto pavement, and they are submersible in up to three feet of water. A bit more impressive than your vacuum cleaner.
These bots are used primarily for going where no human wants to go. PackBots were the first to explore the Fukishima reactor in Japan in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and they are often used for HazMat detection, explosive detection and disposal, and surveillance.
Brazil has spent over $7 million to acquire 30 PackBots to use at FIFA 2014’s 12 host cities. The non-sentient machines will be used primarily for surveillance at the matches, as well as to search for any suspicious objects.
As long as there are no lightning strikes, everything will probably go just fine.