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Disaster search-and-rescue in robot-crazy Japan

Helping Hand
RoboCue is designed to pluck victims of bomb blasts from spots human rescuers cannot reachKiyoshi Ota (Take a closer look!)

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.

Designed by the fire department itself, the search-and-recover 'bot is tethered by a 328-foot cable and equipped with infrared cameras, a megaphone, and ultrasonic sensors that find victims in places where human rescuers cannot go, such as burning houses. It also has an onboard oxygen canister for those who might need it. Two feeler appendages gently load the victim, whether injured by the blast or trampled in the ensuing chaos, onto a sleigh bed before wheeling him safely out. The only drawback: Hauling multiple victims is not possible with this particular model.