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Published on October 7th, 2019 | by Emergent Enterprise


Squishy Robots Give Responders Remote Insights

Emergent Insight:
Data provided by IoT sensors can be very valuable but what if the sensors need to be in dangerous or hard to reach places? Stephanie Kanowitz at GCN.com reports on “squishy robots” that can land and navigate in the most extreme conditions or locations providing critical information. This type of data gathering coupled with artificial intelligence will allow businesses to prevent disasters and save lives. Energy companies, mining and construction, and first responders are all organizations that could benefit from having squishy robots.

Original Article:
Photo source: Squishy Robotics

Pliant robots that a NASA scientist worked on for exploring other planets have some very real applications right here on Earth — providing first responders with information about an emergency via edge and cloud computing without putting them in harm’s way.

The devices, called squishy robots, are equipped with cameras that can provide a 360-degree view of an affected area, and they have thermal and chemical sensors for determining heat levels and identifying hazardous materials. What’s more, they have been successfully dropped from drones and helicopters at heights of 400 to 600 feet, respectively.

“They can also be deployed by the first responders when they come in with an emergency vehicle and can be thrown in a remote area while they’re at the perimeter of the site,” said Alice Agogino, cofounder and CEO of Squishy Robotics, a startup out of the SkyDeck accelerator at the University of California at Berkeley. It’s important “to get the information as soon as possible to first responders because if there is a hazard in the area, it is dangerous to first responders and people living in the local community.”

The robots are virtually immune to being tossed around because they are tensegrity structures, meaning that none of the rods they’re made of touch one another. That creates a tension that allows the robots to “shape shift,” according to the Squishy Robotics website, without breaking on landing.

“They are the strongest structures you can get with the lightest weight,” Agogino said.

When they land, the robots remain stationary, getting to work collecting imagery and data. Edge computing means they analyze some of the data right then and there and deliver feedback to emergency personnel through their handheld devices. Data collected by the robots will be stored on the cloud where the team can use machine-learning tools to improve analysis, said Agogino, who’s also a mechanical engineering professor at the university.

 She said she hopes that the data collection over time will enable the company to also study trends that could make responders safer.

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