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09-07-11, 04:57 PM #1
I, Robot, can help during disasters
So it begins....
Shoe-box-size creatures called PackBots, with tank-like tread on their wheels and shipping-crane arms, were asked for the first time to dig through the rubble of the World Trade Center alongside human counterparts. The robots' goals were to search for victims and assess the structural integrity of the debris by sending back rough images from hard-to-reach places.iRobot is trying to give its machines more "autonomy," meaning they could operate with less input from joystick-holding humans.
Other researchers are working to create robots that would look and move like giant worms or caterpillars, allowing them to wiggle through rubble with greater ease.
Murphy said these squirming robots show great promise, but they also run a bizarre secondary risk: They might scare the victims they're sent to rescue.
"I'm not sure, if I was a victim, I'd want it coming for me," she said, laughing.
Her solution: Get the disaster-response robots, over time, to act more human so that even if they look like terrifying metallic snakes, they'll be seen as the helpers they're mean to be.
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