'Smart' Robot Could Help Rescue Disaster Victims

A new robotic tool could help rescue workers locate victims of disasters and other emergencies before venturing into collapsed buildings or other potentially dangerous places.

Developed by researchers at the University of Guadalajara in Mexico, the new robotic system enables small, rugged bots — designed for search-and-rescue missions — to distinguish between human bodies and other objects, such as piles of rubble. The system includes an onboard computer and a stereoscopic camera that can capture 3D images.

The goal is to get the robot to "think" for itself. In other words, the researchers want the robotic system to automatically detect new human shapes based on its previous experiences, in the same way that an intelligent being— like a person or a dog — might do so.

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