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Navy's New 'Hunger Games'-Like Lab Tests Robots in 'Extreme Survival Conditions

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"Our tracking system currently has the largest capture volume in existence."

Robots will be challenged with high temps and humidity in the Tropical High Bay. (Photo: Naval Research Laboratory)

The highly anticipated film "The Hunger Games," which opens this weekend, depicts a startling, futuristic view of North America divided into districts with an oppressive centralized government. To remind its citizens of the "Dark Days," the government forces a group of teenagers to fight to the death on nationally controlled television in a huge arena. If you can imagine this extreme version of reality TV for a moment, you can see how it would take a highly sophisticated tracking system to capture all the violence of the 24 "tributes" over a distance of several acres.

(Related: Liberal or conservative? Both sides trying to claim "Hunger Games" as their own -- why?)

Now, back to reality. The Navy is working on technology that would, in essence, do just that.

Live Science reports that the Navy's Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research will feature high-speed cameras that can track detailed movements of 5o robots, drones and even military personnel:

"Our tracking system currently has the largest capture volume in existence," said Alan Schultz, director of autonomous systems research at U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.

The biggest arena — about half the size of an American football field — allows the NRL's own game makers to change the simulated environment as they see fit. They can pipe in the sound of marching troops or a background environment, adjust the lighting to nighttime conditions, or even flood a 40-square-foot (12-square-meter) area to a 4-inch (10-centimeter) depth to make a shallow pool of water.

Four other arenas recreate diverse environments such as oceans, coasts, deserts, tropical rain forests, waterfalls and rock walls.

The challenges in these environments for robots, such as heavy rain, sand and heavy waves, will test how the equipment handles various "extreme survival conditions."

The lab will be used to track cooperation between humans and robots. According to Live Science, the lab will have smaller rooms with eye trackers and multi-touch displays to collect data on how the humans control robots in the games.

The Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research had its official ribbon cutting last week. Now the games can begin.

[H/T Popular Science]

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