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by Mike Zazaian September 21, 2006 - 4:51pm, 5 Comments

The BEAR robot carrying a virtual human

A new robot from VECNA Solutions can perform life-threatening tasks, so we humans don’t have to.

Still in its early prototype stages, the BEAR is capable of lifting up to five hundred pounds and is controlled completely by a wireless remote system. Obvious uses of the technology include finding, lifting and carrying soldiers out of battle zones, as well as other areas that pose physical threats to humans such as nuclear facilities.

In fact, the US Army’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) has already given VECNA a substantial grant for continued research of the BEAR robot. Gary Gilbert, the program manager of the TATRC, is wholly optimistic about the project:

Robotic extraction of combat casualties from under fire or from hostile or contaminated environments is the ‘holy grail’ of the TATRC mobile robotics program. The BEAR prototype as envisioned in the VECNA proposal and current research contract is the most promising approach I have seen to safely extracting casualties from urban and wooded terrain or from other areas with numerous obstacles that would impede entrance by other vehicular or aerial robots.

BEAR standing up
And while BEAR’s hydraulic upper body give it exceptional strength and dexterity, BEAR’s lower body gives the robot its unique versatility. Using a system called dynamic balancing behavior, or DBB, BEAR is able to balance itself on the balls of its rounded feet, allowing it to stand as a normal human would in addition to using it’s tank-like treads.

However, the BEAR robot is still in its prototype phase, and has yet to be tested on actual humans, but a test of the robot showed BEAR’s capability of picking up a dummy and carrying it around for 50 minutes without rest. Continuing efforts on the robot will bring even further autonomy to its actions, making it able to find and lift humans with little or no guidance from an operator.

All VECNA has to do now is make sure that BEAR doesn’t try to overthrow the government and enslave the human race.

[via The Vecna Project]