Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Robomedic For the Battlefield

Roboinspector: A snake robot inspects the head of a skeleton lying on a high-tech stretcher designed by the military, called the Life Support for Trauma and Transport system. Credit: Howie Choset/Carnegie Mellon University

From Technology Review:

A snakelike robotic arm may one day medically attend to soldiers as they are carried off the battlefield.

The first 30 minutes after a battlefield injury are dire: that's when nearly 86 percent of battlefield deaths occur. Before attending to the wounded, frontline physicians have to quickly locate the casualty and extract him from the battlefield, often under heavy fire. This can take up costly minutes, as well as expose medics themselves as possible targets.

Now researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) are developing technology to give battlefield medics a helping hand--literally. Howie Choset, an associate professor of robotics at CMU, has engineered a snakelike robotic arm equipped with various sensors that can monitor a soldier's condition. The robot can be wirelessly controlled via a joystick, so that a doctor at a remote clinic may move the robot to any point on a soldier's body to assess his injuries as he's being carried to a safe location. The robot's serpentine flexibility allows it to maneuver within tight confines, so that, in case a casualty can't be extracted from the battlefield immediately, the robot can perform an initial medical assessment in the field.

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