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Our First Look Inside SAFFiR, the U.S. Navy's Firefighting Robot

We've got pics of the new humanid robot from Virginia Tech

1 min read
Our First Look Inside SAFFiR, the U.S. Navy's Firefighting Robot

When we posted about SAFFiR last week (the firefighting robot being developed by Virginia Tech's Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory), the best we could offer you in terms of imagery was a picture of CHARLI, a diagram, and a gratis screenshot of a flaming Terminator robot. Now Dr. Dennis Hong, the director of RoMeLa, wrote in to share these pics of what SAFFiR actually looks like right now.

I dunno about you, but my first reaction to these pics was something along the lines of "whoa, beefy." By comparison, CHARLI looks positively skeletal. Here's another pic of SAFFiR:

To recap, some of the distinguishing features of SAFFiR include those big, serious parallel linear actuators on the hip and ankle joints, titanium springs in the knees, and a central aluminum structure to allow to robot to carry a bunch of grenades and fire extinguishers and stuff. I'm still waiting to see how SAFFiR will manage to climb up ladders on a ship busy doing barrel rolls in a hurricane while on fire, but I think we can all be fairly confident that if RoMeLa can figure that out, more RoboCup wins should be no problem at all.

Via [ RoMeLa ]

Images: Virginia Tech's Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa)

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Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman
LightGreen

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.

"I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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