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Robotics Technology

Robot Snake Could Aid Search and Rescue Operations 66

mikejuk writes "The Carnegie Mellon University Biorobotics Lab demonstrates how the snakelike robots can aid search and rescue operations in collapsed buildings. The video appeared more or less at the same time as the current real disaster in Dhaka, Bangladesh where an 8-storey building collapsed, trapping some three thousand people. Bangladesh rescue teams, helped by members of the community, have so far worked with small tools and their bare hands to bring out survivors. Having a snake robot that could provide pictures from within the building would lead to speedier and more effective rescue operations."

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Robot Snake Could Aid Search and Rescue Operations

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    The money spent on the rescue bots could be used to properly construct at least ten times as many buildings.

    • The money spent on the rescue bots could be used to properly construct at least ten times as many buildings.

      Or on ... manned trips to mars, developing the singularity, perfecting the site-to-site short range transporter ... and they're all equally likely.

    • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @08:55PM (#43577345) Journal

      properly construct

      Much of the construction process is out of your hands once you and the building contractor have reached an accord. In one of those pervasive occupational instances of irony, the difference between the price you've agreed on and what it actually costs to finish the project is what the contractor makes. Additionally, each subcontractor beneath the general contractor is working a 'bid job' as soon as their feet hit the site... in no way, shape, form, nor circumscription is this a statistically beneficial scenario for the building owner. Sure, there are some honest contractors who will complete a job per submittals and specifications even if they underbid the scope of their work, but I've seen examples of the other type aplenty.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps designing better buildings would be more useful? Or perhaps they might build robot architects?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Can you fuck it?

    I'm thinking tentacle porn.. We could sell a bunch of them!

  • After looking at the video I have to conclude that:


    Seriously, snake shape is absolutely worthless in those conditions. It looks good (as long as you don't follow it trying to wriggle its way across trivial obstacles for hours), and probably fun to program, however why anyone with any remnants of sanity would think, this is in any way useful, is still a mystery for me.

    Real snakes have an adva

    • Real snakes have an advantage of great flexibility, high energy density and low weight. This contraption has no hope to utilize either of those things.

      Just like how cellphones will never fit into your pocket.

  • by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @08:25PM (#43577205) Journal

    Quite a number of people on the Indian subcontinent die every year from cobra strikes. Snakes are an object of horror -- if you're trapped in a pile of rubble, a snake may not be the thing they want to see.

    Other than that, I think it's a great idea.

    • Well, let's nip this idea in the bud, then. Because a cobra looks just like a sinuous reptile and it's totally OK to pander to superstitions.
    • "Mom, there's a snake with a flashlight crawling through the rubble." Yup, I suppose trapped Christians would be fsked, but is there a Hindi aversion to the serpent Saitana?
    • I don't think this is a problem. People in India who suffer from snakebites (the agile cobras cause only a small minority of the accidents, most are vipers which are to lazy to run away (Romulus Whitaker did an analysis of that a few years ago)) get bitten from stepping on them (or rolling onto them whilst asleep in the case of kraits). A cobra seeing you trapped under rubble would simply ignore you for not being a threat. I assume that people in India are aware of these facts (but OTOH I'd expect first-w

    • The solution: bolt a PA system on the robot that would allow you to loop customized messages, say every 15 seconds or so. Just make sure you QC the recording.

      "Don't worry -- I'm a robot and I'm ^#@!! here to eat you."
      "Don't worry -- I'm a robot and I'm ^#@!! here to eat you."
      "Don't worry -- I'm a robot and I'm ^#@!! here to eat you." ...

    • by Dabido ( 802599 )
      It might be received well. The Naga (snake) is a symbol of protection through most of South East Asia and I believe India. []ga [] [] Snakes in Asia are usually considered good. A snake in the roof (thatched) is good for keeping the rodents down and stopping food (rice grains) being stolen and eaten etc. Of course, it could make a person trapped in rubble wet themselves. De
  • I understand why you would want to emulate a snake: a smooth flexible body with no limbs to get snagged could get through tiny crevices and cross gaps that a wheeled vehicle would fall through. However, I think they are forgetting a huge psychological factor here - people fear snakes. A person is lying, pinned beneath some rubble, confused, in pain and helpless. Suddenly they see this snake crawling through the rubble, getting closer and closer. They will panic. They will try to get out, injuring thems
    • *First world people* fear snakes, with the bible (Gen 3:1-5) being a significant cause IMHO. In countries where seriously venomous snakes exist, they are venerated a holy animals, and people are aware that trying to kill a snake is a bad idea (it is the snake which you don't see (and therefore step on it) that bites you). A snake being seen crawling around is harmless *unless you attack it*, and even then it will most probably flee.

      • *First world people* fear snakes, with the bible (Gen 3:1-5) being a significant cause IMHO.

        The Bible might be a major cause in highly-religious areas, but not in the rest of the country; it would be extremely unusual out on the US West Coast where I live, for example. (I've never known anyone that took religion *that* seriously; the closest I can think of was a hardcore Irish Catholic great-aunt born in the 1920s that would have been insulted enough to call me an idiot if I even asked whether she found snakes scary due to the Bible.)

        In countries where seriously venomous snakes exist, they are venerated a holy animals

        We have a few snakes that are venomous enough to be deadly to ad

  • So instead of a dozen or so search and rescue personnel combing through debris, or helping survivors, they'll have one or two people staring at this things camera feed as it ever so slowly makes its way through a damaged building. Make them much smaller, cheap and autonomous so you can litter them throughout a site to find survivors and you might have something really useful. Until then this thing seems like a really expensive and wasteful toy.

    • I expect that this is the plan. Just send hundreds of robosnakes into the building. Staring at the screens is cheap, and then you can send the trained personnel to the places where help is needed.

    • Part of the problem with searching through a collapsed building is the risk of further collapses. Rescuers have been killed by subsequent collapses during an aftershock or when removing a chunk of debris caused remaining debris to shift and fall. And quite frequently the rescuers are forced to abandon a building because the engineers deem it too unstable to safely search when nobody knows if there's even anyone still alive inside.

      With a robot you could search regardless of the safety risks, and concent
  • ... left disappointed.

    • You won't be for too long. Tokyo Institute of Technology(TIT, couldn't be more appropriate) already has a robot snake []. I trust the Japanese will deliver.
  • I wonder what countries could afford such thing for their rescue team? If you do not have money to build a decent building, do you have money to spare for that kind of gadget?
  • by jamstar7 ( 694492 ) on Sunday April 28, 2013 @09:22PM (#43577499)
    Cue 'hamster rescue' jokes in 3... 2... 1...
    • i initially misread the title as "robot shake" as in, another viral harlem shake or whatever derivative.
  • It's all good until those mother-fucking robot snakes get on a mother-fucking plane! A drone plane! MF'in' Robot snakes on a Drone plane! And fricking sharks with laser beams -- /{vox Samuel Jackson}
    "No movie shall triumph over Snakes on a Plane. Unless I happen to feel like making a movie called More Motherfucking Snakes on More Motherfucking Planes." -- actual quote from Samuel Jackson [] [and I assert and deem that those new snakes shall be robotic!!! - gia]
  • Reading the comments so far, two issues are repeatedly reinforced...or two incorrect assumptions so stupid I don't know why they are moderated to 'insightful' or 'important'.

    First one - if it looks like a snake it will scare people further. This is nonsense...a robotic snake will behave like a snake - but not look like a snake (or at least it can be made to look not like a snake - with some flashing LED lights on the body.) The mouth will have some camera, rather than fangs. Plus these are small robots.
  • This Proof of Concept was mentioned in 2000.
  • Snakes... on a plane-wreck!

  • So every time a snake robot PR blurb is published, a university PR and Patents & Innovation department gets a pat on the back! See a 1993 article about snake-like locomotion in biologically inspired robots
    -- S. Hirose, P. Cave, and C. Goulden, Biologically inspired robots: snake-like locomotors and manipulators, vol. 64. Oxford University Press Oxford, UK, 1993

    [ link found as # 14 from [] ]

    -- [] = Roboboas has 4 an

  • boy these things have been a long time coming. my brother worked non this as an engineering student in 1998. I remember seeing it when I visited his lab at Carnegie Mellon, along with the spider robot they sent into Mt. Erebus. at that time it had no means of locomotion.

  • One may wonder in what language this robosnake' software is written.
  • "So how'd those new robot snakes work out when you poured through the rubble?"
    "Excellent, Sir! We've located 4 survivors with them!"
    "Nice work!! Their relatives must be ecstatic!"
    "Well, actually it didn't work out that way, Sir..."
    "All 4 unfortunately succumbed to heart attacks as soon as we spotted them, Sir..."
    "Well, that's not good! Really not!!"
    "No, Sir. We're still working on that part..."

  • 99: Max, what's that?
    Maxwell Smart: An electric snake. Very good for creating a diversion.
    99: That's amazing! What does it run on?
    Maxwell Smart: Tiny little feet.

  • Or lack thereof. All of these recent robot and UAV developments are cool and potentially useful but we still keep missing the boat on the über power source. Lots of law enforcement agencies bought into the quadcopter UAV concept spending tens of thousands of dollars on them only to discover that the flight times are really short. They were expecting to be able to keep them aloft for hours. (Never mind the social issues.) The same thing applies to the snake robot. What's going to happen when the b

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