Pentagon Goes To The Robotic Dogs

There's a new dog in town this week at the annual RoboCup championships in Japan. That's where robots of various shapes and sizes compete in soccer games. The U.S. favorite is a team from Carnegie Mellon University, which took a battery-driven robotic dog sold by Sony Corp., fed its souped-up brain new software and turned it into a competitive team player.

As CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart reports, it even has a little victory dance after scoring a goal and pouts when it loses. They're just cute as all get-out, but this is where our story takes a turn, because Carnegie Mellon has been working with these puppies under a grant from the Defense Advanced Projects Agency, or DARPA, which wants to find a way to use similar robots on the battlefield.

DARPA, which always has its eye not so much on the current war as much as the next one, declined to talk about the project. But the aim seems clear: Can robots trained as team players - just as these can recognize one player from another - be retrained as scouts? Could they then even be fitted with weapons, like unmanned Predator surveillance aircraft, and become killers as well?

Carnegie Mellon acknowledges DARPA's involvement, but prefers to focus on the softer side.

"I work on the problem of autonomy, so, I mean autonomy can be used for rescue missions," says Manuela Veloso of Carnegie Mellon University. "It can be used for millions of good uses."

The school also has its eye on another benevolent invention: the Segway Human Transporter. Working with DARPA, they've given it sight and the ability to communicate with other Segways and humans.

You put the camera here, it searches the neck, the little eye," says Veloso. "And people are like, 'Wow, it sees. Very interesting.'"

And what would a Segway do if a Segway could see? Well, that depends on who's asking it. But one possibility, analysts suggest, is that instead of just carrying folks around for fun it might also be trained to stalk them as well.