Carpenter’s research, which will be published on ProQuest as her PhD dissertation, is not the first scientific study about how soldiers feel about their robots.
In Afghanistan and Iraq, there have been large-scale deployments of battle robots such as TALON and Packbot, a small, portable robot with tractor treads and a video camera that can be used to survey a building for foes or detonate an improvised explosive device (IED). In 2007, the Washington Post reported that the robots scooting though booby-trapped cities, supplanting the humans that once had to do that job, were not going unappreciated – soldiers had begun to care for them, sometimes quite a bit. Ted Bogosh, then a master sergeant and a repairman for the Marines in Baghdad, told the Post that one soldier in his shop had became distraught when told that his robot, “Scooby Doo,” was not salvageable. The soldier would not accept a replacement robot.
The anecdote was also repeated in a 2009 LiveScience profile of Peter Singer, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution and the author of "Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century."
In the latest research, the interviewed soldiers said that they had no qualms about sending their robots onto the battlefield. But there was a potential hitch: the soldiers often named their robots after a girlfriend or wife. One soldier told Carpenter that his robot, riding along with him in his jeep and resting next to him as he slept really did feel a bit like his girlfriend, Carpenter says. None of the robots were named after ex-girlfriends, Carpenter says.