Robots are fast advancing in military application. Leading research and development institutes like Boston Dynamics and DARPA have recently made considerable gains in robotic technology. Three types of robots fill a majority of the space of the robotics marketplace. Automatic robots, automated robots, and autonomous robots.
Automatic robots are robots that respond to external inputs and respond in a mechanical way. These types of robots require human input and only function with human oversight. These robots have no ability to discriminate and will follow any command its given by a human. These types of robots are already used by militaries. Think of EOD robots, drones, or compact load barring vehicles.
Automated robots carry out commands based on pre-programming and accomplish tasks in a sequential order. They do not need human input outside of the initiating command to complete tasks. They are limited in their ability to make decisions. Examples of pre-programmed robots are reconnaissance drones that can identify targets without human input.
Autonomous robots can be programmed to make independent decisions based on pre-programmed options. The freedom this entails is cause for much debate in militaries around the world. While they are still constrained by their programming they can exercise judgement calls, and any lethal capacity on a robot such as this calls into serious ethical questions and liability risks. An example of this type of robot is Boston Dynamics “Atlas” Robot. Currently able to traverse challenging terrain and perform acrobatic feats. Some believe this robot will make soldiers obsolete in the future.
See link to Boston Dynamics demo of the Atlas robot.