Thursday, June 7, 2007

This isn't really new, but it's certainly nifty

Why Western ingenuity will triumph over Islamic fanaticism.

A robot could soon be a soldier's best friend on the battlefield under a proposal being developed by the Pentagon.

The mechanical warrior, called Bear, looks like an oversized toy with a teddy bear's face. However, it can squeeze through doorways while carrying a wounded serviceman.

The 6ft-tall remote-controlled device can travel long distances over bumpy terrain and carry out the toughest assignments.

Bear, short for Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot, is part of the new generation of "steel soldiers" being developed for Afghanistan and Iraq, reports New Scientist.

More on the program from the company developing it, VECNA Technologies:

The BEAR: Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot™

The patent-pending BEAR robot is Vecna Robotics' flagship program. 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.

Above: Visualization of the BEAR robot PV2 carrying an injured servicemember.

The Vecna Robotics BEAR project has won key seed funding in the form of a grant from the US Army's Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), a part of the US Army Medical Research and Material Command (USAMRMC).

One question: why only seed funding? This deserves full development funding, so it can go operational sooner than the projected four to five years from now.


Anonymous said...

There are actually some very key NEW technologies being developed and utilized here, so full-fledged funding is not warranted until some of those capabilities are taken to the proof of concept and actual prototype stages. Once there, we can look at addt'l funding levels. Also, the idea of having a robot - however friendly looking - extract a casualty from harms way, and then provide for the evacuation to the medical treatment facility, is very new and very unacceptable to many within the DOD. Not everyone has moved into even web 1.0, much less into what may well turn out to brave new worlds, so we're dealing with changes to very fundamental paradigms, perceptions and understandings of how things should, do, and can operate. Much of the acceptance of this sort of system is generational - would your grandparents want a robot moving them around? Probably not - would you? You probably wouldn't be as uncomfortable with that idea, but someone raised into a world where that happens everyday is totally unafraid, because that's all we know - so that's what I mean by generational acceptance (GA). It WILL happen, but right now it's a matter of some bench level research, and a whole lot of GA! To see more about the Vecna BEAR, and other military medical robotics, check out our webpage at - then follow links to robotics and multimedia.

stuiec said...

Sorry for the misunderstanding -- I meant that the STORY isn't very new, having been reported in 2006. The technologies are obviously new, exciting and very important to the long-term war between the West and Islamic fundamentalism. The newness and excitement of the technology is evidenced by the mentions in the story and BEAR web page of its ability to stand upright and climb stairs -- an amazing feat for a tracked vehicle!

You at TATRC are doing some amazing work. I can envision one day a set of "dog tags" that monitor the health status of a soldier in the field and instantly recognizes when he needs a medic -- then calls for assistance from robotic extraction and/or a human medical corpsman. Of course, I can also envision one day that robotic systems will be doing a lot of the front-line fighting, with their soldier-operators following a steel-and-composite phalanx into battle. Kudos to you.