Like many robots deployed in military applications, robots used for post-disaster search-and-rescue missions will go places humans can't. Most are tasked with gathering and reporting data back to human operators to help them locate victims and avoid dangerous situations. To help human first responders, these robots may be a swarm of small individuals communicating among themselves, such as those built by the Georgia Institute of Technology. Others are larger individual units that look for and help victims, like Survivor Buddy.
The design platforms they're based on often do double duty as surveillance and reconnaissance aides for the military, so they're usually equipped with communications capabilities, cameras, and multiple sensor options. Most of them are remote controlled. Some can be configured for autonomous operation, and others are entirely autonomous.
Click on the photo below for a slideshow of 10 of these heroic robots in action.
A different way of making rescue robots friendlier is designing them to look more like people, and making them big and strong enough to lift and carry unconscious disaster victims for long distances without hurting them. One example is the Battlefield Extraction Assist Robot (BEAR) prototype, built by Vecna Robotics and funded by the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command's Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center. The BEAR, an all-terrain, search-and-rescue, humanoid robot, can lift and carry up to 500 pounds. It's designed to locate, lift, and rescue people, and it can grasp fragile objects without damaging them. The powerful torso and arms are controlled by hydraulics, and its mobility platform has two independent sets of tracked legs. The robot balances itself on the balls of its ankles, and it can remain upright while balancing on its knees or hips. Aside from search and rescue, it can be used for handling hazardous materials, surveillance and reconnaissance, mine inspection, heavy lifting, and warehouse automation. (Source: US Army)
William, I'm not sure where the idea of tranquilizing victims comes from. If you mean the Survivor Buddy, the point there was lessons learned after 9/11 about how weird, alien and upsetting a robot can appear to a human in distress. So the GUI and the machine's body language were designed to help calm the victim, as well as provide web communication with family and rescuers. Or did you mean something else?
Ann, it was in the post by ervin0072002 , who suggested some "sedative gas" or somesuch. The nearby comments mentioned the potential for legal grief if the robot did not deliver up to somebody's expectations.
Where the problem begins is in the minds of those who have no technical understanding at all, and presume that engineers can do anything if they choose to do it, and spend enough money on it. That, along with the inability of so very many to focus their attention long enough to learn and understand things, seems to be the basis of those who are unwilling, or unknowing-enough, so that they believe that all of their existance is "somebody else's" responsibility.
On the other side, rescue robots do need to be made to look and sound friendly and reassuring. That is why the comment about needing a very good quality speech and sound system on the robots. Fortunately that technology is quite mature.
BEAR reminds me of Robo-Cop. It is a great idea to use the robots to interact with victims. If the robots had audio capabilities this would/could allow two communications with victims. In the case of a rescuing a child it would be comforting for a child to hear someone's voice, like their parent to keep them claim.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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