Many robots are born, bred, and buried in the lab, prototypes eternally protected from unfamiliar environments. That fate won´t befall the University of Southern California´s Segway Robotic Mobile Platform (RMP), a ´bot designed to quickly map unknown and rapidly changing areas such as urban battlefields. Computer scientist Gaurav Sukhatme and his students, including Jonathan Kelly [above], loaded a Segway platform with GPS, video cameras, laser range finders and wireless communications equipment. The range finders constantly measure the distance to nearby objects, forming a rough outline of the landscape. Software fills in the rest, referencing patterns from past experience to turn the outline into a useful map of walls, trees and buildings. A version of the robot could be used to make detailed 3-D maps of hotspots in Baghdad, but for now, it´s still in training around the USC campus.