Science and Technology News

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

21st Century Damage Control: Robots vs. Fire



We just returned from a demonstration and tour of the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory’s Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research (LASR, for short) — in layman’s terms, the NRL’s robotics lab. There’s a lot going on there, from realistic climate testing environments to autonomous UAV flight testing, but here’s a taste of something we might see used aboard ships sooner than later.

From the NRL’s YouTube page:

Even in peacetime, fires represent one of the greatest risks to the U.S. Naval Fleet.

To this end, the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), with support from the Office of Naval Research, is conducting research and developing new technologies to enable shoulder-to-shoulder robotic damage control teammates.

Through a combination of speech and visual recognition, the robot is able to identify trusted individuals, in this case, the human fire-fighting teammate.

The human is able to provide situational information to the robot by voice and gestural commands. Here, the human partner is telling Octavia the general location of the fire before she enters the compartment.

Using two infrared cameras, Octavia is able to localize the fire, allowing her to target it with the compressed air/water backpack.

Ongoing work is focused on improving the naturalness of the interactions so that the human partners can interact with the robot as if it were another human teammate. Additional work is focused on recognizing and characterizing the type and behavior of the fire so that proper extinguishing techniques can be used.

Navy Center for Applied Research in Artificial Intelligence
 http://www.nrl.navy.mil/aic/ .

Office of Naval Research
 http://www.onr.navy.mil

For more NRL videos, visit http://www.nrl.navy.mil/media/videos/ .

Video Credit: Navy Center for Applied Research in Artificial Intelligence

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