Together, a Snake Robot and Live Dog Could Make Search-and-Rescue Missions More Effective

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Jan. 20 2012 6:22 PM

Together, a Snake Robot and Live Dog Could Make Search-and-Rescue Missions More Effective

Every Friday, Future Tense rounds up the best robot videos of the week. Seen a great robot video? Tweet it to @FutureTenseNow, or email us.

This week, the robot world was looking at snakes to improve rescue missions.

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The Dog-and-Snake Bot

It’s an unlikely pairing, but dogs and snakes might be the future of rescue missions. In an effort to speed up search-and-rescue operations, Carnegie Mellon and Ryerson universities teamed up to create the Canine Assisted Robot Deployment system. Dogs are great for finding people trapped in disaster situations because they can navigate the uncertain terrain and sniff out victims. But they’re not great at fitting through tight spots or giving rescuers a clear picture of what’s going on. That’s where robots come into play. The snake robot is stored in a pack around the dog’s neck, and it deploys whenever the dog barks. The bot we see in this video scans its surroundings and streams video back to a computer, which would allow rescuers to see a person trapped in rubble, assess the situation, and make a plan. The system is adaptable, too, so presumably different devices could be stored in the pack depending on what is most useful.

The Scaling Snake Bot

At first glance, you probably wouldn’t know this robot was inspired by a snake. It may not have the grace (or fear factor) of a serpent, but deep down, it’s got the moves. Georgia Tech doctoral candidate Hamid Marvi studied how snakes slither along to create this bot that efficiently navigates different slopes and surfaces. Much like how a snake uses its scales, this bot uses motorized plates as it climbs angles to make sure it gets the right amount of friction needed to move itself forward. The result is efficient motion, though it’s not particularly fast.

The Sensitive Bot

For everything robots can do, they’re certainly not known for feeling. Pumpkin, on the other hand, has the special ability among its kind of being able to fully feel what it touches. The sensors in Pumpkin’s hands sense pressure, heat, movement, and texture, bringing together several technologies used by the Canadian Space Agency to create an experience much like that of the human hand. As University of Ottawa engineering professor Emil Petriu tells the Ottawa Citizen, many robotic hands can grab objects, but without being able to feel what they hold, they become “clumsy.” By developing smart hands, the team says robots could become much more useful in fields where precision is necessary, like maintaining nuclear power plants or disposing of explosives. Note: The first half of the video is in French. For the English description and demonstration, skip to 2:19.

Via OpenFile.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Adam Sneed is a researcher for Future Tense at the New America Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @atsneed.

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