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Robot Scout Finds Fires With 3D Thermal Imaging

This robot happily goes map fires so that you don't have to

1 min read
Robot Scout Finds Fires With 3D Thermal Imaging

We hear about lots of robots that could potentially be used for "search and rescue" or "disaster relief," because that's kind of what you say when you've made a robot that doesn't have a commercial or military application but you still need to come up with some task that it might be useful for. It's much rarer that we see these robots actually performing search and rescue or disaster relief tasks, which is why it's especially nice to see this firefighting robot from UCSD doing something that firefighters would find immediately useful.

The UCSD robot is called FFR for "firefighting robot," although FLR for "fire locating robot" might be more technically correct. The robot uses a stereo camera and a thermal camera to generate 3D pointclouds with thermal overlays, allowing the robot to autonomously generate maps showing hot spots and humans even through smoke. The sensor hardware on board the robots doesn't look especially complex, meaning that the 'bots might ultimately become inexpensive (and replaceable) enough to deploy in swarms. So, instead of running around burning buildings looking for people, firefighters can just deploy a bunch of robots first, and rapidly build up a thermal map telling them where to go.

Incidentally, that nifty stair climbing system is something we first wrote about back in 2009, and it's great to see that it's been turned into something useful. Now, if they'd just give iFling some water balloons, it really could be a firefighting robot.

Also, can I just say that the logo of the UCSD Coordinated Robotics Lab, which apparently features a Swedish guy getting fed through a set of planetary gears, is just darn impressive in a kill-all-humans sort of way.

[ UCSD ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
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In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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