IDF Envisions Army of Animal Robots for Rescue Missions, Military Ops.
A cat-bot that climbs the walls using its claws, a dog-droid that responds to human movements, and a robot which releases glue through its wheels while scaling buildings met Wednesday in Herzliya. This might sound like the beginning of a joke or a description of the scene of a science fiction movie like Star Wars. In reality though, this was the scene at a robot exhibition in the central coastal town.
The wall-scaling robot may look like a small mechanical toy, but in practice it is quite a sophisticated device: it is capable of crawling up vertical walls, can turn corners without falling, and successfully navigate through obstacles without difficulty.
The robot is the offspring of a family of robots which were developed by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; a project which was launched following the abortive 1994 operation to rescue abducted soldier Nachshon Wachsman. Wachsman and an officer from the elite reconnaissance Sayeret Matkal unit, Captain Nir Poraz, were killed in the operation.
"They held Nachshon Wachsman on the second floor of the building, but the forces on the ground that carried out the rescue did not know that," Dr. Amir Shapira of Ben-Gurion University said. "After the operation, the army came to us and requested that we build something that would allow it to 'peek' inside the second floor, so we looked for a robot that could stick to the wall."
Shapira said there were a number of ways to create a robot that could do this, and his team of researchers explored each possibility: the robot could adhere to the wall through the use of glue, a vacuum, magnets, or claws. "The robot with claws climbs the wall like a cat climbs a rough-textured wall," Shapira said. "Another robot has wheels with glue and it can move on completely smooth surfaces, even glass."
Aside from military observation missions, the wall-climbing robots could be used in the future for planting antennas as well as for cleaning windows. Ben-Gurion researchers have also developed "robot snakes" capable of slithering on the floor and passing through pipes and narrow openings.
Also on display at the exhibition were little dog robots manufactured by Sony and developed at Bar-Ilan University. The dog, called Aibo, responds to being petted, wiggles his ears, and dances. It also obeys instructions through the use of camera attached to its nose. The camera can also identify objects like balls.
Bar-Ilan researchers use the Sony robots and reprogram them to cooperate with other robots. The dogs know, for instance, to march in a pack and to gather objects and place them at a collection point
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