bots IN BRIEF
THIS BOT IS HOT
This robot sure doesn't look like much, but if you give it a chance it'll be your
new best friend on those cold and lonely nights as it stores up heat and re-emits it
to keep you nice and toasty.
Under that featureless cubizoid exterior, Hagent — as the robot is so named —
has some wheels, some sensors, and a big pile of phase-change material. Phase-change material (or PCM for short) is something that stores or releases energy
when it changes from a solid to a liquid (or any other combination of phases) or
vice versa. So, for example, let's say you've got a cup of coffee that's really, really hot.
You could put some kind of PCM into it and the PCM would melt, absorbing the
excess heat and making your coffee drinkable. Then, as the coffee cooled down, the
Hagent takes that heat storage concept and mobilizes it for the purposes of using energy more efficiently and keeping you
cozy when it's cold out. The robot can sense heat (like an oven, a fire, or anything else), and when it does it drives over and
hangs out, letting its pile of PCM suck down as much energy as possible. Then, it'll follow you around, acting like a little pet
space heater as its PCM re-solidifies, up until the PCM has emitted all of its stored-up heat. It's cute and it's mostly free, since
all Hagent does is take heat that you've already produced and shift it around a bit.
Created by Andreas Meinhardt and Daniel Abendroth from Germany, Hagent is actually still at a prototype phase.
PACK IT IN
Boston Dynamics’ BigDog just got bigger and badder. DARPA's
already gotten on the horse and saddled up the bot with a bunch of
luggage, and chased it out into the wilderness to see how it'll do.
DARPA says that "physical overburden" is one of the biggest
problems facing soldiers today. We've got lots of great technology
designed to keep warfighters safe and give them an advantage in
combat, but all that stuff adds up to the point where having to lug
around 45 kilograms (100 pounds) of gear is not unheard of. The job of
the LS3 (Legged Squad Support System) is to act as a pack mule,
carrying up to 181 kilograms (400 pounds) of gear so that the humans
can take it easy for a change.
We already know that BigDog and AlphaDog are capable of
negotiating steep and slippery terrain while heavily loaded, but DARPA's
planning an 18 month battery of practical tests to make sure that the
LS3 can get the job done.
Features to be tested and validated include the ability to carry 400
lbs on a 20 mile trek in 24 hours without being refueled, and refinement
of LS3’s vision sensors to track a specific individual or object, observe
obstacles in its path, and to autonomously make course corrections as
needed. Also planned is the addition of “hearing” technology, enabling
squad members to speak commands to LS3 such as “stop,” “sit,” or
“come here.” The robot also serves as a mobile auxiliary power source — troops may recharge batteries for radios and
handheld devices while on patrol.
The overall goal is for the LS3 to be able to behave functionally identically to a well-trained pack animal, albeit one that
makes a lot of noise, eats gasoline, and can be used to recharge your iPod. If all goes well, the testing will culminate in a field
exercise where the LS3 will embed itself with real live Marines. It'll be interesting to see how the soldiers will like a system
such as the LS3, and whether the robot will be able to keep up with the demands of a realistic mission.
22 SERVO 04.2012