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Robots Rush In: In Search-and-Rescue Operations Teamwork Is Everything

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Researchers at the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) are developing intelligent search-and-rescue robots that work cooperatively. University of California, Merced professor and robotics lab director Stefano Carpin says the robots, equipped with sensors and sonar, are designed to enter emergency situations and provide reconnaissance for first responders. "The idea is not to replace first responders with robots but to collect as much information as possible so that first responders can do their jobs better without being exposed to unnecessary risks," Carpin says.

Carpin's lab has focused on developing multiple intelligent robots that can cooperate to complete a shared goal. The robots are overseen by a single operator, allowing them to work together and track each other's locations. Robots capable of coordinating movements and merging collected information will enable first responders to cover a far larger area. The robots could use each other as navigational points when not in contact with the human controller, enabling a single operator to deploy a team of robots. Coordinating the movements of multiple robots and creating a single geographical model from multiple moving sources are significant challenges that require complex mathematical algorithms, advanced engineering and subtle programming. "The user interface has to be simple enough for firefighters to use without too much training," Carpin says. "We have begun closing the link between the first responders and the scientists."

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