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Humanoid Robot Fights Fires on Ships
6/1/2012

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This closeup shows four 30mm brushless motors manufactured by maxon precision motors. (Source: maxon)
This closeup shows four 30mm brushless motors manufactured by maxon precision motors.
(Source: maxon)

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Beth Stackpole
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Balancing act
Beth Stackpole   6/1/2012 7:38:00 AM
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I imagine the balance piece is one of the more critical design points for this humanoid fire fighter given that many of this ships could be way out at sea and subject to all kinds of weather. Great idea, though, and a welcome set of hands on deck if such a disaster were to take place.

naperlou
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Re: Balancing act
naperlou   6/1/2012 9:47:12 AM
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Beth, I expect that a well trained human could do fairly well, but a robot can be programmed to react much faster.  With appropriate sensors the robot could also have some advance notice of events and plan accordingly.  This could be an interesting evolution.

G Cabrera
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Re: Balancing act
G Cabrera   6/1/2012 1:13:00 PM
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These things would be awsome! Anyone who has been on ships know the risks of getting caught in the confined areas of the engine rooms in the event of fires. And usually it would be poisonous smokes resulting from the fires that are more of a danger to human firefighters in these cases.

This is a good step toward ship fire prevention...only...if they did not make it look like the homocidal robot Hector from that 1980 movie 'Saturn 3'. I would be totally on board with this. That robot kinda creeps me out.

apresher
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Fighting Fires
apresher   6/1/2012 4:02:33 PM
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Deb, Very interesting application and use of motion technology. I would think the biggest challenge would be the software algorithms to control movement of the robot, especially to handle challenges like balancing. Thanks.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Balancing act
Rob Spiegel   6/1/2012 4:51:29 PM
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I agree it is creepy looking. But more and more, we're seeing robots developed to go into dangerous places for surveillance, as well as search and rescue. These developments could save countless human lives.

Charles Murray
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Re: Balancing act
Charles Murray   6/1/2012 5:47:28 PM
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I agree, Rob. Here, we have a great application for robots -- doing tasks that are just plain dangerous or that humans don't want to do. It's amazing to see how much "muscle" the new breed of robots is providing.  

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Balancing act
Beth Stackpole   6/4/2012 8:30:44 AM
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@ G Cabrera: I have to admit, I feel the same way, but I held back from saying so. Seeing that robot come lumbering (or tearing) across the ship, depending on how the sensors program it to respond based on environmental conditions, might be enough to send ship mates overboard, retreating in fright--and not just from an onboard fire!

GlennA
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Re: Balancing act
GlennA   6/4/2012 9:17:18 AM
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Rob Spiegel;  Saving lives is probably the driving justification for this.  There would be little concern about sending a robot into a situation that would be deadly for a human because the robot could be repaired, or replaced.  There are certainly more efficient mobile platforms, but a companionway or hatch could be too difficult for a non-humanoid design to navigate.  The tether may be necessary for power, and to send back video to an operator.

I don't recall the article stating if these were supposed to be autonomous or tele-robotic (remotely operated).

roddalitz
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Re: Balancing act
roddalitz   6/4/2012 9:50:44 AM
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With respect I must ask whether humanoid is the most effective design? Certainly Hughey from Silent Running was far more convincing than the Star Wars robots R2D2 and C3PIO. Two legs seems like a biological accident, whereas ants and spiders work fine in most environments without issues of balance.

G Cabrera
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Iron
Re: Balancing act
G Cabrera   6/4/2012 10:09:45 AM
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@roddalitz. I would tend to agree with your argument but in this case it was necessary to give the robot humanoid feet. Ships engine compartments have hatch doors that are raised from the ground. To step through would require bipedal action. In this case the design may not have been based on human hubris.  Though...if the robot is tethered how far can it go crossing that threshold. Hmm.

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