Robotics

New firefighting robot gets put to the test

New firefighting robot gets pu...
The new version of WALK-MAN operates a fire extinguisher
The new version of WALK-MAN operates a fire extinguisher
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The new version of WALK-MAN stands 1.85 meters tall (6 ft)
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The new version of WALK-MAN stands 1.85 meters tall (6 ft)
The new version of WALK-MAN operates a fire extinguisher
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The new version of WALK-MAN operates a fire extinguisher

SAFFiR, the US Navy's experimental firefighting robot, may be in for some competition. That's because researchers at Italy's IIT-Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia have successfully tested a new-and-improved version of the WALK-MAN humanoid robot, which is designed to support firefighters.

WALK-MAN was developed through a European Union-funded project that also includes the University of Pisa in Italy, the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, and the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium. The project began in 2013, with the original version of the robot being completed in 2015.

Remotely controlled by a human operator wearing a sensor-equipped suit, WALK-MAN is intended to enter a building, find a fire, then put it out with an extinguisher. The robot's head incorporates a 3D laser scanner and microphones, along with video cameras that transmit live video to the operator.

Thirty-two motors and control boards are used to control its body, along with four force and torque sensors located at its hands and feet, and two accelerometers that allow it to keep its balance.

The new version of WALK-MAN stands 1.85 meters tall (6 ft)
The new version of WALK-MAN stands 1.85 meters tall (6 ft)

The new version of WALK-MAN stands 1.85 meters tall (6 ft), and at 102 kg (225 lb) is 31 kg (68 lb) lighter than the original. Most of those weight-savings are in its more compact upper body, made from magnesium alloys and composite materials.

Because it's lighter, it's able to move its legs faster. This allows it to respond more quickly in order to maintain its center of balance, and keep from falling over on uneven terrain. And because it's more compact, it's now easier for the robot to pass through standard doorways and narrow passages.

It can operate for about two hours on one charge of its battery pack.

Another improvement is the hands, which are now not only lighter, but have a more human-like finger-to-palm size ratio – this means it's better able to grasp objects designed for use by humans. Additionally, thanks to a new version of the lightweight actuators used in the arms, it's now able to lift 10 kg per arm (22 lb), as opposed to the previous 7 kg (15 lb).

In the recent test, the robot was successfully able to open a door to get into a room, locate and close a valve to stop a hypothetical gas leak, remove debris blocking its path, and then locate a fire and use an extinguisher.

WALK-MAN can be seen in action, in the video below.

Source: ITT via EurekAlert

WALK-MAN operating in a damaged building

9 comments
Daishi
This is silly. The debris it moved could have been moved by breathing hard against it. Millions of dollars and 4 years of development and and it's a tethered bot that's not even flirting with being close to real-world useful. Boston dynamics is the state of the art on robots with legs and they were started 26 years ago with sunk costs probably into the billions and still nothing close to a usable product anywhere in sight. Robots with legs should be left to science fiction and public funding should be left out of it.
Heard it here
Why not equip it with it's own fire extinguisher? What if an extinguisher isn't available? May be faulty etc All the same, interesting to see robots that are more human like. Not long before we're not needed for many activities...I get that it's still controlled by a human but that won't be necessary for simpler tasks.
notarichman
it looks like the video cam is mounted in the head...big mistake in my opinion. smoke obscures vision except near the floor. or there should be multiple video cameras that allow the user to pick between several cams (or multiple windows) to guide the robot. second; to be really effective it would be nice if the robot was capable of towing a person out of the fire (house, room, etc.) 22 lbs. is not enough. third; if a fallen beam or tilting wall is in the robot's path, it would have to go under it. so good gripping wheels and a low profile might be necessary with "arms" that can reach high to turn valves, etc. fourth; robot designers should go through structure fire fighter training in order to see what a fire fighter needs to do and the problems they encounter. for the navy; they should go through the same training for ship board fire fighting.
notarichman
for the navy; there might be water leaks or flooded compartments. so making the robot totally water proof and able to travel on wet surfaces or under water might be necessary. for civilian structures; there might be a sprinkler system (shorting out robot electronics!), so water proofing is again necessary. also, with gas leaks there is a possibility of igniting the gas with the electronics in the robot. water proofing the robot might deter that ignition?
notarichman
for any style design of robot fire fighter it would be "handy" pun intended! to put a video cam mounted near the "hand", claw, grabbing device in order to get a good view of what is intended to be grabbed.
Bob Flint
Speed and abilities need more work...
JamesDemello
This robot is going to have to slow down a lot or its going to put firemen out of a job.
christopher
They should make it fireproof. It needs to reflect heat (not be black!) and not have plastic wires hanging out all over the place at least.
bullfrog84
Multiples of design flaws... money ppffft..