July 31, 2010

Rescue Robot Invented In Japan

Japanese emergency services are planning on trying out a small tank-like rescue robot that can search rubble for survivors and deliver water, food or cellphones into the disaster zones.

Eiji Koyanagi, a robotic engineering expert at Chiba Institute of Technology, told the AFP news agency that the fire department of Chiba City, east of Tokyo, will test the QUINCE prototype starting next month.

"People die because they despair. If the robot delivers a cellphone, they won't feel alone. If the robot delivers water and food, they can hold out," said Koyanagi. "We want to make this the world standard."

The QUINCE has a robotic arm that can be controlled remotely to turn doorknobs, maneuver through rubble and carry crucial survival items after an earthquake or other disaster.

Human rescuers manipulate the arm from a distance by using a computer link that shows them robo-view camera images.

The machine also features infrared and carbon-dioxide sensors to help it find survivors by detecting body heat and breathing.  It creates a three-dimensional map of the site as it crawls around.

QUINCE has four sets of wheels, each driving a tank-like rubber track and powered by a total of six electric motors, enabling the machine to roll over bumps and up and down slopes as steep as 82 degrees.

People trapped under rubble are able to hear the voices of rescuers through a speaker attached to the robot.

Koyanagi, speaking at Tokyo's Robotech fair, said it is essential for the robot to be tested by real rescuers in order to improve its design.

He said that engineers may develop the wrong ideas because in the past, "we made touch panels, only to find rescuers wear gloves and cannot use them."

Japan is prone to earthquakes and attracts about 20 percent of the world's most powerful tremors striking the island nation.


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