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)
Beth, I had the same impression about BEAR: haven't I seen this in a movie someplace? I'd bet the Hollywood producers and writers of those movies have done their homework and were inspired at least partly by some of these real robots. The other part I'd guess comes straight from the pages of science fiction novels, graphic novels and comic books.
Most of these search and rescue/first responder robots are designed to get into tight spaces and navigate dangerous territory, while also providing reconnaissance about dangerous conditions and/or locating or helping victims. For example, Survivor Buddy, Gemini-Scout, the aptly named FirstLook, Georgia Tech's tiny MAST robots, Surveyor SRV-1, and Hector GV. The larger DARPA bots are aimed at clearing a path for first responders and/or helping victims. I suspect they'd also be useful for archeological exploration: some of the surveillance-type robots in the nautical robots slideshow
Most of the robots featured are suited for surveillance, which can lead to rescue, but don't address the most hazardous issues in search and rescue. Getting through tight spots or in collapsed buildings prevent human rescuers from reaching victims quickly.
I'd love to see if the robots featured here can help archeologists.
Bear is really cool and could do wonders for saving lives. That robot and some of the others look like they are straight from a Hollywood action flick. I think with the robots that actually interact with victims, incorporating as much humanoid technology as possible is probably a plus.
It won't be too much longer and hardware design, as we used to know it, will be remembered alongside the slide rule and the Karnaugh map. You will need to move beyond those familiar bits and bytes into the new world of software centric design.
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