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Can Robots Come to Your Rescue in a Burning Building?

Robots (red dots) scan the premises of a burning building, giving firefighters knowledge of the environment before they enter.

University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering researchers are developing robots with the ability to help rescue people from fires.

Credit: Peter Bollinger

Researchers at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering are developing robots that could help rescue people from fires.

The researchers are focusing on the networking and movement of autonomous robots, as well as developing algorithms the robots could use to communicate with each other. If successful, the robots could accurately communicate the details of a room with the least human input possible.

The researchers are testing whether mobile robots can use radio communication and sensors to help each other move around a room full of obstacles. "The vision is the robots would notify firefighters where to go and where not to go," says Ph.D. student Jason Tran. "These robots could detect a survivor's location or determine if the temperature and atmospheric conditions of a specific room may be too much for a human to handle."

Fellow Ph.D student Pradipta Ghosh says rescue robots may eventually help with firefighting in dangerous situations. Tran and Ghosh hope the mobile robots, along with the wireless networks needed for communication, will be functional by next year, while Ghosh says the biggest hurdle is linking the robots together so they work as a unit.

Doctoral student Shangxing Wang and colleagues are focusing on developing algorithms to withstand anticipated wireless communication problems, such as a collapsed ceiling blocking the relay of a signal.

From USC News
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