Under lightly falling snow, a soldier sets a rock on the ground. A moment later the rock animates, extending first a periscope-like camera, and then lifting the whole of its rocky exterior to reveal a small set of tracks. With mobility now possible, the little robot wheels down the slight embankment of the sidewalk as though it’s a tank crashing over frozen hills. Once in place, the rock body lowers, leaving only the camera peeking out, observing the world around its concealed perch.
Dubbed the “Spy Stone,” this little robot is the creation of Russian Air Force cadets, over the course of three years at the Military Educational and Scientific Center at the Zhukovsky and Gagarin Air Force Academy. It looks, in many respects, like a conglomeration R2-D2 from Star Wars, a remote control toy tank, and a hide-a-key rock.
The robot is only a prototype, but it is one with potential real-world combat implications.
The Spy Stone can record up to 15 hours of video and audio, which it will process and transmit to human operators at a distance of up to 1.25 miles. To ensure that the stone is only recording video of interest, filming is activated by motion sensors, and the robot can go into a dormant sleep mode for close to 24 hours before recording.
“As the developers explained, one of the applications can be reconnaissance during a positional war or a ‘frozen’ military conflict,” says Samuel Bendett, an analyst at the Center for Naval Analysis and adjunct senior fellow at the Center for New American Security.
Read the full story and more from Popular Science.