DARPA to invest in iRobot's inflatable robot arm

Aug 22, 2012 by Bob Yirka weblog
DARPA to invest in iRobot's inflatable robot arm

(Phys.org) -- In military operations there are a lot of things that need to be done besides fighting, and the US government is hoping to offload as much of those things as possible to robots. To that end, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has directed funds at all manner of projects aimed at developing robots that can haul heavy loads, diffuse bombs, traverse mine fields, etc. Thus far however, most such efforts have been focused on heavy duty jobs with heavy duty robots. Now, however, it appears DARPA has recognized a new need: smaller, lighter robots that can perform more tactile tasks in chorus with human soldiers. The agency is about to award iRobot (of Roomba fame) $625,000 to build an inflatable robot arm that can pick things up and set them down in a reliable fashion and that won’t cause harm to soldiers if they should run into each other.

In a war, sometimes it would be convenient if a were able to zip out from behind cover to retrieve a thrown grenade then carry it off some safe distance, for example. The problem is, conventional robots are too cumbersome and heavy for soldiers to carry and too slow and energy sapping to follow them around like pet dogs. For this reason, it’s become clear that something lighter needs to be developed, and smaller would be good too if it’s to fit on a soldier’s back. This is why DARPA is looking at an inflatable robot that could use air pressure to squeeze an object as a way of picking it up. The result so far, a prototype called the Advanced Inflatable Robot, or AIR when installed on top of iRobot’s Unmanned Ground Vehicle, is a that inflates when commanded then grabs objects such as a soda bottle or suitcase handle, by inflating the hand part of the arm around the object.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

While clearly still in the development stage, the AIR prototype weighs just half a pound, yet it can lift objects as heavy as three pounds, which is really impressive when compared to its heavy duty cousins which typically can lift objects that are just a fraction of their own weight. Also, in testing the prototype, the air pressure was reduced which means that adding more would allow the robot to pick up heavier objects, a clear indication that iRobot is on to something, which accounts for the money is giving them to proceed with developing the robots into something that could one day make their way to the battlefield.

Explore further: Socially-assistive robots help kids with autism learn by providing personalized prompts

More information: via Wired

Related Stories

iRobot planning an Android-based robot

May 12, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- iRobot is working on robots that have the brains of an Android tablet. The goal is an Android-based tablet that is able to see the world around it, hear input from humans, respond and think ...

New robot 'Cheetah' breaks land-speed record

Mar 06, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Up till now researchers at Boston Dynamics have demonstrated four legged robots that appear meant to carry heavy loads as they tromp through and over rough terrain (e.g. Alpha Dog and Petman, LS3). Now it appears they’ve taken a different approach in looking ...

New robot butler "HERB" can microwave your dinner (w/ Video)

May 03, 2012

(Phys.org) -- One of the big disappointments of the computer age is the distinct lack of robots in our everyday lives. For years we’ve all been teased by the possibilities of robots in SciFi movies and television shows, ...

Robotic technology lowers military risks

Jun 07, 2006

With suicide bombing and improvised explosive devices escalating violence in Iraq, engineers are working to advance robotic technology to counter these deadly military problems.

Recommended for you

Sony wooing Japanese to PS4 with Dragon Quest

1 hour ago

Sony is trying to woo Japanese game fans to the PlayStation 4 home console that went on sale in November in the U.S. and Europe, but didn't arrive at stores here until February.

Scientists get set for simulated nuclear inspection

3 hours ago

Some 40 scientists and technicians from around the world will descend on Jordan in November to take part in a simulated on-site inspection of a suspected nuclear test site on the banks of the Dead Sea.

Alibaba IPO comes with unusual structure

4 hours ago

Foreigners who want to buy Alibaba Group shares in the Chinese e-commerce giant's U.S. public offering will need to get comfortable with an unusual business structure.

User comments : 0