Dogs and robots are both known for their search and rescue abilities, but each has its own flaws. Robots can’t sniff, and other than barking, dogs can’t relay specific information about survivors. But put them together and you’ve really got something.
At AUVSI's (Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International) massive robot conference in D.C. this week there is no shortage of robots designed to seek out--and in some cases destroy--human targets. Sandia National Labs chose to go in the opposite direction with their Gemini-Scout, a remotely controlled rolling robot designed specifically to lead search and rescue efforts in the event of a mining disaster.
Though the earthquake that struck Japan's eastern coast earlier today has left the country with massive destruction and hundreds of deaths, modern technology (and Japan's impressive level of readiness) are helping the country track survivors and dampen the damage as much as possible. In the future, our ability to cope with natural disasters will only increase, due in large part to the particular talent earthquake-vulnerable areas--especially Japan (and to a lesser extent, California)--have for robotics.
Predicting earthquakes is still a remarkably fruitless effort--seismologists are not reliably able to predict even a particular month in which an earthquake will occur, let alone a day. So the work done to mitigate the damage done by earthquakes is often in post-quake search-and-rescue tactics. Interestingly, two of the most earthquake-prone places in the world are also two of the world's hotbeds of robotics engineering. Japan is situated along the so-called Pacific Rim of Fire, at the point where the Pacific and Eurasian tectonic plates collide. The country is continually at risk of massive earthquakes, and as a technological world power, is uniquely capable of creating technological salves for 'quakes.
By Brian AshcraftPosted 05.14.2009 at 10:13 am 2 Comments
No, it's not a robot uprising. This is the Tokyo Fire Department's Rescue Robot, also known as RoboCue, taking a mock patient to safety as part of a training exercise for dirty-bomb containment and casualty rescue, held late last year in Tokyo.
Earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones -- disasters like these make the natural environment both unnavigable and dangerous for human search-and-rescue teams. That's when it's time for robots to come to our rescue.
Earthquakes are a recurring problem in Japan, an archipelago that rests on four tectonic plates. Japan also happens to be a hotbed of robotics research, so the two have come together in surprising ways.