MIT Professor Is Building Bio-Inspired Robots To Save LivesBy Chris Brandt
Disasters and accidents happen endangering human lives. Fortunately, there are people who have dedicated their lives in helping save others. There are also situations when human responders are not available but don't worry because an MIT engineering professor is building bio-inspired robots to save lives.
Sangbae Kim, associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, is building robots that will serve as first responders to accidents and disasters. What makes his robots special than other kinds out there is that they are biologically-inspired to perform high-level tasks.
Working at his Biomimetic Robotic Lab at MIT, Kim is building the MIT-Cheetah a four-legged machine designed after the fastest animal on land. It mimics how the cheetah moves - running, jumping autonomously, and trotting at 14 miles per hour. The only difference is that this one is powered by machines. Furthermore, this one is much faster than the real animals suggesting that there are still a lot Kim and his team can do at the Biomimetic Lab.
At the moment, Kim is trying to merge the MIT Cheetah with another MIT-developed robot, the HERMES, a robot controlled by a human wearing exoskeleton of motors and wires. Through this kind of control, the HERMES displays human-like reflexes. By combining this two, Kim wants to develop a human-like robot that could save lives.
He cited an example where a building is filled with leaking toxic gases. In order to stop it, a valve needs to be closed but the situation is too dangerous to send humans in. At the moment, no type of robot can do this type of job and that is what Kim wants to create - a robotic first-responder - by combining mechanical design, human decision making, and biomechanics. Once this becomes a reality, more lives will be saved from disasters, minefields, and other emergency situations where it's impossible for humans to access.