Many animals, including some humans, seem to have an instinctual aversion to snakes. Many animals, including some humans, also seem to have an instinctual aversion to robots. Couple that with a (totally understandable) instinctual aversion to running around in disaster zones, and it's remarkable that this robosnake-deploying disaster dog even shows up for work in the mornings.
Disaster areas offer some of the trickiest types of terrain for anyone (robots or humans) to safely navigate. Quadrupeds are one of the most adaptable platforms in situations like these, which is one reason why we use trained dogs to search for earthquake survivors. Problem is, while dogs are great at getting around over the top of rubble and finding places where humans might be buried, they're too big to get down into nooks and crannies, and even if they could fit down in there, for their sake you probably wouldn't want to send them.
This kind of dangerous work is just exactly what robots are around for, and by giving them rides on trained disaster dogs, they can get exactly where they need to go quickly and safely. Watch a dog deploying a tethered snake robot in a disaster training exercise in the video below:
Carnegie Mellon University's Biorobotics Lab teamed up with Ryerson University's Network-Centric Applied Research Team (NCART) Lab and a (very well trained) dog named Freitag for this demo. While Freitag was lucky enough to be running around with a robot snake this time, the system can be adapted to deploy just about anything, and apparently, deployment is controlled by the dog: whenever it starts to bark (which it does when it smells a human), the robot jumps out of the dog's chest-pack and starts exploring. Cool!
For more information on the CARD (Canine Assisted Robot Deployment) system, you can check out a 2010 paper on IEEE Xplore at the link below.
[ Canine Assisted Robot Deployment for Urban Search and Rescue ] via [ CMU ]
Evan Ackerman is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and technology. He has a degree in Martian geology and is excellent at playing bagpipes.