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If you want to build a robot that can fall hundreds of feet and be no worse the wear, legs are pretty much out of the question. The obvious answer, then, is a complex web of cable-actuated rods. Obvious to Squishy Robotics, anyway, whose robots look delicate but are in fact among the most durable out there.
The startup has been operating more or less in stealth mode, emerging publicly today on stage at our Robotics/AI Sessions event in Berkeley, CA. It began, co-founder and CEO Alice Agogino told me, as a project connected to NASA Ames a few years back.
Idea - Robot - Spacecraft - Fall - Agogino
“The original idea was to have a robot that could be dropped from a spacecraft and survive the fall,” said Agogino. “But I could tell this tech had earthly applications.”
Her reason for thinking so was learning that first responders were losing their lives due to poor situational awareness in areas they were being deployed to. It’s hard to tell without actually being right there that a toxic gas is lying close to the ground, or that there is a downed electrical line hidden under a fallen tree, and so on.
Robots - Type - Reconnaissance - Bit - Catch-22
Robots are well-suited to this type of reconnaissance, but it’s a bit of a Catch-22: You have to get close to deploy a robot, but you need the robot there to get close enough in the first place. Unless, of course, you can somehow deploy the robot from the air. This is already done but it’s rather clumsy: picture a wheeled bot floating down under a parachute, missing its mark by a hundred feet due to high winds or getting tangled in its own cords.
“We interviewed a number of first responders,” said Agogino. “They told us they want us to deploy ground sensors before they get there, to know what they’re getting...
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