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Robotics Medicine The Military

Snakelike Robot To Treat Soldiers During Battle 130

Al writes "Technology Review has an article about a snake-like robotic arm that could soon be used to treat injured soldiers as they lie on the battlefield. Developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, the snakebot attaches to a stretcher and is controlled remotely using a joystick, allowing a doctor to assess a soldier's injuries as the bullets fly by. In future, the robotic arm will be fitted with sensors allowing it to measure vital signs and probe for internal bleeding. Here's a brief video of a prototype arm in action. The arm will become part of the US military's high-tech stretcher, called the Life Support for Trauma and Transport system. This is essentially a portable intensive-care unit, with a ventilator, defibrillator, and other physiological monitors, and it's currently being used in areas of Iraq and Afghanistan."
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Snakelike Robot To Treat Soldiers During Battle

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  • thats nice. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gandhi_2 ( 1108023 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @04:47PM (#26716555) Homepage
    between the chair force in Nevada and now the medics with joysticks, everyone but the Infantry can finally be safe!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by xch13fx ( 1463819 )
      yea why not replace the infantry with robots and the doctors with mechanics.
    • Nope! Tankers are still very expensive targets!! They don't have a robotic Abrams Tank yet!
      • HOOAH! 19E from 88-90 (think M-48a5's M-60A3's), 19K from 90-94(Slick M-1's), and recently I re-enlisted as a 25S SATCOM Operator-Maintainer

        Just one question though...why not just equip a bunch of RC bots with mini guns and control them from Ft. Hood? you could even equip them with a highly energetic self termination keep the enemy from getting the assets on the battlefield...or to just create a big crater....RUN FROM THAT JIHADI!!!!

        Of course doing so might be what sparks the war between man and

        • by Ihlosi ( 895663 )
          you could even equip them with a highly energetic self termination device...

          Good plan. I'd recommend something in the single-digit kiloton range. And keep in mind that it's only a nuke if it's intended to be used as one, as a self-termination device, it's perfectly okay.

    • by Cowmonaut ( 989226 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @04:58PM (#26716759)
      High latency is really going to get you killed now...
    • by thewiz ( 24994 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:01PM (#26716797)

      Technology Review has an article about a snake-like robotic arm that could soon be used to treat injured soldiers as they lie on the battlefield.

      Now all the battlefield proctologists will be able to sit safely in the rear.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by easyTree ( 1042254 )

      Developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, the snakebot attaches to a stretcher and is controlled remotely using a joystick, allowing a doctor to assess a soldier's injuries as the bullets fly by.

      (a) Clearly I'm insane in the membrane but a more surefire way to enhance the health of soldiers seems to me to AVOID GOING TO WAR EVERY FIVE SECONDS (omg caps)

      (b) Of course, presumably this is just another "hey mr and mrs taxpayer, whilst we have your child away from home on a foreign battlefield, we'

      • Re:thats nice. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by easyTree ( 1042254 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:05PM (#26716861)

        America has been involved in one war or another every year since the Civil War

        There, fixed that for myself.

      • Along your line of thinking is the movie "Why We Fight" [], a decent documentary about the themes you've mentioned. It offers an interesting perspective about the role of capitalism in our (the US) military infrastructure. I recommend it highly.
        • Thanks... I'll take a look. It's always nice to be fed information which reinforces your world-view (even if you are mistaken :)

      • None of the conflicts that the US is in are defense wars. A bunch of people got past security in Manchester and Boston and now we're torching up the Middle East.

        It's a good policy to use these devices to save soldier's lives now that we're caught in this mess.

        An ounce of prevention and disbelief in obvious propaganda would have prevented the pounds, no megatons of cure we've needed subsequently.

    • by Gerzel ( 240421 ) *

      The infantry are the cheep parts. In fact if they die while on duty it costs less as the army doesn't have to shell out for education costs afterwards.

      • The infantry are the cheep parts

        Is this a dig at the French? I am confused.

      • That's what you think.

        It currently costs over $400k per death considering the insurance and other death benefits. They don't pay nearly that much for post-separation education. Add to that the cost of training a replacement and you can rest assured that it's quite a hit to the pocketbook when someone dies.

        I'd place the price tag of losing a soldier somewhere between $600,000-$800,000 depending on rank and job.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @04:47PM (#26716565)

    When I've been shot in a combat zone, the first thing I want to see is a nice, reassuring ROBOT SNAKE to tend my wounds.

    • The TRAUMASNAKE is a casualty's best friend!
    • by Clandestine_Blaze ( 1019274 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:11PM (#26716957) Journal

      Don't worry, the enemy will soon deploy ROBOT clones of Samuel L. Jackson to deal with the snake problem... ;)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Zakabog ( 603757 )

      When I've been shot in a combat zone, the first thing I want to see is a nice, reassuring ROBOT SNAKE to tend my wounds.

      A nice, reassuring, bullet-proof snake, that isn't an easy target about to get shot and land in the same situation as yourself, requiring medical attention and unable to move to safety.

      This technology is a good thing, I don't want my doctor drawing fire from the enemy, or getting injured and unable to save my life. Yes I know it's illegal to shoot at a medic, but it's a lot easier having a virtually indestructible robot snake than asking the enemy to play fair.

      • Well, I can see a proactive enemy doing several things:

        -- jamming (or attempting jamming) of the snakes

        -- using canisters to launch fake (or real) snakes toward the wounded so that conscious wounded will be terrified as hell and may resort to shooting at the expensive devices and venemous or scary real ones

        -- launching fraggers into the field to make pointless the use of snakes.

      • by Blublu ( 647618 )
        I like how you use the words "play fair" about a real-life fight to the death.
        • by Blublu ( 647618 )
          What I mean is, it's strange to me how you imply that it's somehow more "wrong" to kill a medic than anyone else. I never understood this phenomenon.
          • It's just one of the crazy rules of war. You're not supposed to shoot anyone who is incapacitated or tending to the wounded. In the same line of conduct medics are not supposed to fire at the enemy. Of course this isn't always followed, but it's sort of a courtesy thing.

            After all, medical personnel are supposed to attend to both friendly and enemy wounded. I've seen it in practice and I must say I respect them highly for it.

    • John connor, we've lost!
    • by mikael ( 484 )

      Why couldn't they build the sensors into the blanket or whatever the poor guy is placed on top of. I'd imagine if the guy was delirious, he would probably be restrained to stop him falling out, but seeing something like that would still increase his blood pressure anyway.

    • At first glance, I read the title as "Snakelike Robot To Eat Soldiers During Battle". Gah!
  • Badger-Badger! Now I can't get that song out of my head.
  • This looked awesome until I watched the video, then it looked pretty shoddy. There've been some much better snake robots [].
  • by hoggoth ( 414195 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @04:59PM (#26716769) Journal

    If you actually WTFV (watch the video) you can see that after giving the soldier a thorough checking over, the snake-bot PLUNGES THROUGH HIS STOMACH AND UP UNDER HIS RIB-CAGE! Is THAT the kind of behavior we want from our snake-bots?!
    Who is running this thing? Skynet?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Oh no, not again...

    • Snake robot hacked to perform colon exam. I'm just saying...
    • "If you actually WTFV (watch the video) you can see that after giving the soldier a thorough checking over, the snake-bot PLUNGES THROUGH HIS STOMACH AND UP UNDER HIS RIB-CAGE! Is THAT the kind of behavior we want from our snake-bots?!"

      It was a BETA version. Quit kvetching!

      "Who is running this thing? Skynet?"

      Some company called Infinium Labs. I hear they used to make game consoles.

  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:00PM (#26716785)
    I foresee this technology currently being developed by the military leading in the near future to great advances in the field of teledildonics!
  • IANAS, however, this seems to me like a very limited and expensive toy. It's not able to recover wounded by itself, rather it allows them to be monitored even before they can be extracted from the battlefield. Yet extraction is the critical step---it's not going to be able to save anyone who can't get medical help. Furthermore, I doubt it can gather a whole lot of useful information: if someone is shot, it will be reasonably obvious where. It's only purpose seems to be to pinpoint who is alive and who is de

    • Most important is not extraction. It's stopping the immediate bleeding. Extraction is still very important but a stupid extraction will injure more people and even if successful, an extraction will not be the live-or-die step in saving the wounded.

      As you state, injuries are usually obvious. What is not obvious is who will survive their injuries without fully depleting the resources of a forward hospital.

    • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:21PM (#26717095) Homepage

      > It's not able to recover wounded by itself...

      Big Dog will take care of that.

    • by b0bby ( 201198 )

      The note under the video said that, in addition to assessment (done by a remote doctor while a grunt does the actual extraction), the snake can do things like provide oxygen. It means that, while the grunt is pushing as fast as he can so as not to get shot, the patient is getting an initial assessment & the real work can start as soon as they get to a doctor. So yes, it's a limited and expensive toy, which may save lives in certain military zones.

    • IANAS

      Does the S stand for soldier, scientist, or snake? Or something else I'm missing entirely.

  • by rwalker429 ( 1452827 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:03PM (#26716813)
    "Pleassssse ssstate the nature of the medical emergency."
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "Be very sssstill ssssoldier, while I sssstich you up."

  • by glueball ( 232492 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:03PM (#26716837)

    I'm a subcontractor biophysicist on a battlefield medicine project.

    Looking at the injuries sustained on the battlefield, [] one should conclude they require massive repairs. As my colleague (one of the authors of the book) has stated, the single most important item to have to survive an injury in a battle is a tourniquet.

    Most people go out past the wire with a tourniquet pre-applied (but not tightened) on each limb. When I was there, it was a strong suggestion and may now be a requirement.

    Now, I'm not on a snake-like project. If it is more complex (and costs a lot more) than a tourniquet, I'd say it is not going to have the promised outcome any greater than a tourniquet.

    • New uniforms do have built in toriquits. It is one of the design features.

      The foot soldier may get bottom of the barrel stuff but it is one heck of a barrel to begin with.

    • Wouldn't making the robot able to recognize and tighten a tourniquet on a victim be potentially life saving then?

      There might be better methods, but a robot which can tighten tourniquets might add valuable seconds/minutes to allow extraction, right?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wufpak ( 204617 )

      When I received Red Cross first aid training, I was taught that applying a tourniquet is a decision to "sacrifice a limb to save a life." Having to pre-apply one of those things to each of your limbs before going into combat has got to be immensely sobering.

      For an 18-year-old kid, the theoretical possibility of getting killed in combat probably doesn't hold as much dread as the very real possibilities of traumatic amputation symbolized by those tourniquets.

      I hope that they built Hell large enough to contai

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I've been there, and we didn't pre-apply them. We did each carry one in our cargo pocket though. You're partially right about the "sacrifice a limb..." thing, but if properly monitored a tourniquet isn't necessarily the end of your limb. It is, however, a last resort.

        I can assure you that the general state of mind is not quite as somber as you would assume. Perhaps it's repression of the situation or just plain brain washed insanity, but we were always quite jovial until the shit started flying.

      • by jafac ( 1449 )

        There was a sci-fi book, (one of those "power-armor" copycats of Starship Troopers; might have been Mirror in the Sky, or maybe Forever War?), where the suits had a built-in iris-valve feature at every major joint.

        You sustain an injury on a limb that ruptures the suit's integrity. . . SNAP, the iris-valve slams shut, severs the limb, seals the suit, and the suit shuts down and injects the occupant with the appropriate drug treatment to stabilize them for medivac.

        Books like these are why I decided NOT to joi

    • It's obviously a constrictor snake.

    • So they go out with 5 torniquets?

  • by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:06PM (#26716879)
    a robot snake swallow whole an injured soldier, and poop out the same soldier completely healed :D
  • Better Idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Nethead ( 1563 )

    How about not sending troops to where they get shot at?

  • by LunarEffect ( 1309467 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:10PM (#26716947)
    ...there's only a skeleton left lying there.
    • by hazem ( 472289 )

      I figured the same thing... if the robot snake can peer at my missing heart through the bottom of my open rib cage, then I don't think the snake will help me much.

      Soldier: It's just a flesh wound.
      Snake Doctor: Your bloody skin's off, your organs are gone!
      Soldier: I've hurt worse.

  • So, at first, I was intrigued by this innocent technological advancement in the name of medicine.
    That was before I watched the video.
    Now, re-reading the /. summary, my mind is performing regex:

  • Snakes on Irak? Nah, that place is scary enough

  • by Anonymous Coward

    when the enemy deploys robotic mongooses?

  • by hey ( 83763 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:14PM (#26717005) Journal

    There is tons of money for war-related tech so this researcher has just aimed his thing that way.
    Its cool but it really has nothing to do with war.

  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:14PM (#26717009) Homepage

    I thought it read,

    "Technology Review has an article about a snake-like robotic arm that could soon be used to treat injured soldiers as they die on the battlefield."

    Seemed kinda pointless to me.

  • "Autodoc' (Score:3, Insightful)

    by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:18PM (#26717063) Homepage the word you're looking for.

  • No. Really. That's the only practical use of this, coz i'm sure the dying solder on the battlefield couldn't care less if a doctor hundreds of mines looks through his rib cage.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:28PM (#26717191)

    Arm that robot snake with a chainsaw and a shotgun, and program him to babble like a neurotic "Evil Dead" Bruce Campbell.

    Let a bunch of them loose on your enemy, and you won't have to worry about any casualties on your side.

    Soldiers are mentally prepared to face other soldiers in combat situations. They are not mentally prepared to face chainsaw and shotgun wielding robot snakes.

  • you are boned.

    "You will experience some minor pressure as the robotic snake rams itself up into your rib cage."

    Cool stuff.

  • Goa'uld! If their eyes start glowing after "treatment" you know it's bad. Don't forget, the head shot is the only true stopper.

  • ...with some morphium. Much better.

    This will be useful in war.
    But, how will it work?
    Checking the heartbeat with a sensor mounted on a moving stick controlled by a joystick could be hard.
  • By the looks of it, it seems they have a small problem. The system should at least be able to quickly determine that the subject is a SKELETON!! Maybe they should add a camera? :)
  • Of course, the obvious thing is...if you can make a robot arm good enough to let a doctor do an exam, why don't you instead build a robot arm that SHOOTS BACK and reduces the total number of infantry you need???! I mean, what kind of idiots put money into this? For the same cost to develop the robotics and telepresence tech and to get it engineered for this medical purpose, you could build a combat robot that would soak up the bullets!
  • Please tell me this isn't going to be a robotic Dr. Watson!
  • War is still War (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fxPPC ( 1079383 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @08:16PM (#26719291)
    Rather than wasting huge sums of money on making war more acceptable to the public (by reducing the rate of casualties), we should be spending huge amounts to END war. The day that war becomes a safe occupation for the aggressor is the day that we'll see more of it, and this project is another small step towards that.I am an American, and it scares me to see my country launch unprovoked wars of aggression. The US spends more on the military than the next 4 biggest-spending countries... COMBINED. Anybody that works to make war easier, works toward making more war. These researchers are guilty of conspiracy to commit murder by helping to enable more efficient killing forces. Human being have to stop killing human beings, end of story!
    • "Human being have to stop killing human beings, end of story!"

      Wake me when guns don't trump everything else.

  • I know slashdot frowns on really short comments, but what the fuck? I'd rather see the .gov money in this go to any one of a dozen different techology efforts.

  • The article says that the snakelike robotic arm is controlled with a joystick. This sounds like it would require a lot of skill to operate. It seems to me it would require much less training if the robot were simply duplicated locally, and the operator manipulated it with the manipulations replicated at the remote end. The local robot could replicate any resistance encountered on the remote end. The remote and local robots could be exactly the same, since both presumably have motors, position sensors, a
  • super-duper systems and sensors and now a high tek stretcher --- whoopee for the military-industrial complex and their lobbyists.

    In a related story, insurgents blew-up one of the Army's latest $20M troop transports using explosives scraped from old weapons, formed into a shaped charge in a discarded brake drum, and detonated by a light sensor from a jihad elmo doll.

  • The steps of treating a combat casualty, as taught to medics nowadays, are: 1) Remove them from direct and indirect fire. 2) Perform regular paramedic A/B/C/D treatment stuff. You don't do anyone a favor by getting yourself shot, as a medic, nor do you help your patient if he or she is still getting lit up while you're trying to treat them. So until CMU's snakey-arm can drag a casualty away from danger in a combat situation, CMU's researchers are inappropriately hyping what their arm can do if they clai

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