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New gear for robot whisperers

Two-way hailers available for Talon robots.

Put your hands up and step away from the Improvised Nuclear Device. QinetiQ

Talon military and first-responder robots can now be equipped with two-way hailers, which enable operators to "listen" and "speak" with their robo-counterparts--in "high fidelity" no less.

The hailer--which can be interchanged from one robot to another--provides secure encrypted two-way wireless audio communications between a Talon robot and its operator at up to 2,600 feet away, according to manufacturer QinetiQ.

Two-way conversations can take place from whisper mode up to loud. And if that doesn't get the message across, there's the 120-decibel siren. For soothing the raging beast on the other side of the barricade or to wile away those protracted standoffs, there's a jack to connect an MP3 player or laptop, which allows you to share your taste in music.

"We feel our new, two-way hailer will be particularly useful for military checkpoints, building clearance, barricaded suspects, hostage negotiations and emergency evacuations, in short any situation where there's a need for urgent, two-way communication that might need to be whispered or shouted," said William Ribich, president of QinetiQ North America's Technology Solutions Group.

A number of systems have already been delivered to SWAT teams in Texas and Florida.