At the Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center at Fort Detrick, Maryland, the US military is testing a novel robot designed to pickup injured soldiers on the battlefield and transport them to a hospital or temporary treatment center. According to the BBC, the robot is designed to be a humanoid for injured soldiers to be more comfortable with the machine.
VECNA Technologies, the company making this robotic system, explains:
Designed to find, pick up and rescue people in harm’s way, the humanoid BEAR robot can do what humans can’t: Lift heavy loads and carry them long distances. Whether on a battlefield, in a nuclear reactor core, near a toxic chemical spill, or inside a structurally-compromised building after an earthquake, the BEAR can rescue those in need as well as or better than humans can, without risking additional human life.
These capabilities enable the BEAR to navigate where humans go — up a winding forest path or through buildings, up or down stairs — able to search for and rescue human casualties. Under grants from TATRC, congress and other organizations, the BEAR’s initial task is to rescue military casualties from urban, forested and other war zones.
However, the BEAR is equally capable of a variety of lifting, transporting and other logistics tasks for the military, as well as penetrating a wide array of disaster areas, natural or manmade, searching for and rescuing casualties. Immune to NBC agents and expendable, the agile BEAR robot can navigate through rubble, structurally compromised buildings, and other areas where the threat to human life cannot be assessed.
In the future, the robot may be adapted for wide use in the commercial realm, as a service/loading robot in the shipping industries, as a catalyst-loading robot in energy plants, or in healthcare settings as an aid for nursing staff to perform patient transfers. The robot, now in prototype development, has demonstrated its promise in lifting and carrying fully-weighted humanoid casualties, transporting them upstairs and down, as well as over uneven terrain, erect in dynamic balancing mode as well as in kneeling and even low-profile, “centaur-like” postures. The BEAR has also won acclaim in the worldwide media, garnering coverage in USA Today, The Engineer, Design News, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Robot Magazine, and many others. In December it was named one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2006.