LIMES: Language for Intelligent Machines Workshop

West Point Military Academy

July 2006


Assignment: Write a short scenario in which robots using language is central to accomplishing a mission.


Grand Prize: Signed copy of “How to Survive a Robot Uprising” by Daniel H. Wilson.



From:        Thaddeus Roppel

To:          Meyer, T. MAJ MATH

Date:        5/19/2006 11:47:15 PM

Subject:     Sci‑Fi story for West Point BOT Language Conference


Dear Tom,


I've included below a very short sci‑fi scenario for the workshop. The principle futuristic ingredients of this scenario are the use of bots as real‑time translators, and the ability to integrate  physical gestures with spoken language. (I hope the story isn't too gory. Also, I'm not well‑versed in military procedures, so it might sound somewhat hokey.)


Best regards,

Thad Roppel



Commando Unit Alpha received word from HQ that 17 U.S. citizens had been taken hostage by heavily armed insurgents in Sangoon. The hostages were being held in the U.S. Mission complex in the capitol city. Their orders were to rescue the hostages with minimal loss of life.  The 5‑person commando unit was being provided with 3 SmartBots to assist in the mission.


Upon making their way to the mission complex, the commandos executed standard search maneuvers.  All team members, including the SmartBots, had wireless communicators for voice. The SmartBots were able to understand and use hand gestures as well. Presently the rescue team identified the room in which the hostages were being held, and entered forcefully.  A standoff ensued, with the rescue team threatening the captors, and the captors threatening the hostages. The captors began speaking among themselves in Sangoonese. After a brief delay, one of the SmartBots began providing a translation in English for the humans. The captors did not hear this, since the SmartBot was outputting its translation directly to the wireless communicator channel without making any audible sound. The commandos thus learned that the captors were divided about killing the hostages and losing their own lives. One of them was clearly the leader and the others were unenthusiastic followers. Without further ado, the human leader of the rescue team shot dead the leader of the captors, and as expected the others threw down their weapons and surrendered. The hostages were rescued without further incident. The captors were interrogated on the spot with the help of the SmartBots.  Information about their base of operations was obtained and reported back to HQ for further action.