Making the rounds one night in a deserted office building, a security guard sensed something amiss, but discovered no sign of intruders. While passing under that area while surveying the floor below, the guard experienced the same sensation and this time reported the incident. Investigators soon discovered the source: a leaking pipe, which could have caused extensive damage had it not been identified so quickly.
While this kind of swift action might ordinarily be justification for a commendation or raise, this particular security worker did not get so much as a handshake. That's because it is one of more than 80 robots designed and built by Cybermotion (Roanoke, VA).
While there is strong demand today for robots that can perform machine vision, welding, and materials handling tasks, guard robots fulfill the futuristic vision of animatronics portrayed in classic shows like Lost in Space.
To date, Cybermotion has placed more than 80 androids. Security detail is ideal for robots because of its tediousness and potential hazards, as well as low unemployment in the human job market. Like human watchdogs, these robots' primary mission is to guard against intruders. They also sniff out toxic fumes, monitor air quality, detect smoke and flames, and perform other patrolling tasks.
With the help of on-board sensing technologies, they can often perform these jobs better than their human counterparts. In the case described above, for example, the splashing water from the broken pipe would have gone undetected if not for the robot's microwave sensing system, which is capable of sensing the calamity at a distance of 50 ft. Other on-board sensing devices on Cybermotion's standard robotic guard include a passive infrared intrusion sensor with an effective range of up to 100 ft, an optical flame sensor, standard ionization sensor (to detect smoke), a broad-spectrum gas sensor, capable of detecting toxic fumes such as carbon monoxide and methane, and temperature and humidity sensors.
The critical factor behind the robot guard's success, however, is something much more mundane: the technology is becoming easier to cost-justify. But that doesn't mean companies like Cybermotion won't continue to push the envelope whenever they can justify it. With the backing of innovative engineering and design efforts, the job responsibilities of today's animatronic guards are sure to be expanded in the future. The company is currently working on a robot capable of not only sensing the smoke, but also putting out the fire, with the help of an on-board extinguisher.