Editor's Note: Dedicated to the participants of the 2009 UK Open University presentation of T209. - "Seekers of the cyborg truths..."

How to Avoid Being Shot by a Robot

Regardless of if you're the next John Connor or if you're just playing a particularly high-tech paintball game, with today's rapidly advancing technology it is possible that you will encounter a robot programmed to shoot something at you, be it a laser or a nerf dart. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the robot does not think like a human and human methods (negotiating, etc) will not work.


1. Remain still. Regardless of what kind of robot it is, motion is the number one criterion it will use to distinguish the landscape from a potential target. At best, moving will cause the robot to become more interested in you, at worst it will trigger an instant targeting and firing.

2. Observe the situation. This is an important step in any confrontation, regardless of what it is with. How many robots are there? Is there any cover? What's the lighting like? Keep in mind that a robot may not be one unit, it may operate as a self configuring swarm, or as an environment (like a smart house).

3. Make a mental note of the details of the robot. In particular, try to determine what it is shooting, and what types of sensors it has. Round lenses indicate cameras, while square lenses or devices that look like speakers indicate range finders (devices that produce a digital map of the environment). Motion sensors may also be present.

4. Try to leave the area. If the robots have not detected you, it is best not to engage them.

5. Look for a kill switch. if leaving is impossible. Most robots that can be harmful to humans have a remote or built-in switch which disables their program and/or completely cuts power. If a kill switch can be reached without moving too much, activate it, but be aware that this emergency stop may not allow the robots to return to a safe state.

6. Confuse sensors. if there is no kill switch available. Most likely, the robot will be capable of detecting any target larger than an average cat. Take off your shirt and throw it, or knock items off of a shelf. An even more effective approach is to cause the sensors to produce erroneous results. Almost any optical sensor (camera, rangefinder, or motion sensor) will be confused by a brief flash of high-intensity light.

7. Run away. Most robots lack the speed to catch a running human, and even if they don't the processing required makes them clumsy pursuers. If you are in a "smart" building, discard any bracelets, ID cards, etc. used to open doors as these can be used to track you.


* If you are expecting a robot confrontation, wear soft, black clothes and reduce the light level as much as possible. The clothing will make you invisible to laser and ultrasonic rangefinders, and the lack of light will inhibit cameras and motion sensors.

* If the robot appears to be able to track you in this environment it may have an infrared camera that can follow your body heat. If possible, attempt to turn on something hotter, (shower, car, etc) or switch on the lights to temporarily blind the camera.


* If activating a kill switch, be aware of the consequences of abrupt power-off. While a well-designed robot will do this safely, you may wish to avoid this in the case of robots containing explosives or suspending heavy loads.

Article Added: 29 May 2009

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Quoth the robot,

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