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Military consultant speaks to what games get right -- and wrong -- about killer robots

"You'll be like: 'That's not realistic,' and people will say: 'But that's how robots are supposed to look,'" military futurist P.W. Singer tells Waypoint. "Science fiction shapes the way we think."

Alex Wawro, Contributor

December 14, 2016

2 Min Read

"You'll be like: 'That's not realistic,' and people will say: 'But that's how robots are supposed to look.' Science fiction shapes the way we think of the future."

- Future warfare specialist P.W. Singer, recounting to Waypoint how military futurists are just as likely as game developers to imagine giant robots ripped from the pages of sci-fi as the future of war.

If you've made a video game with killer robots in it, chances are they looked and moved like humans.

From Terminator: Future Shock to Call of Duty Infinite Warfare to Titanfall 2, the game industry has a penchant for anthropomorphizing robotic fighters; heck, Respawn shipped Titanfall 2 with robot skins for multiplayer, so players can actually play as killer robots who climb inside other, larger robots.

Thus, Waypoint's recently-published feature on whether robots are the future of actual warfare -- and whether or not it makes sense for them to actually look like us -- is worth reading because it sheds light on something a lot of game developers take for granted.

It also features a lot of interesting comments from military strategist and future warfare specialist P.W. Singer, who says he's consulted with both game developers (on Call of Duty: Black Ops II, for example) and military planners who share the same misapprehension: that bipedal robots represent the near future of war.

"Legged is still [a] science project," Singer told Waypoint, noting that other types of robots -- wheeled and flying drones, for example -- are far more accessible and convenient for military use. "If it's ten years in the future, it's hard to think you're going to have lots of legged systems. If you're 50 years out, then these issues will be solved."

To find out why he thinks so, and hear more of his comments on what game developers and military planners get wrong -- and right -- about the future of war tech, check out the full feature on Waypoint.

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