Scientists have come up with a new search and rescue team: dogs and robots.
And not just any robots: snakebots. Inspired by the movement of real snakes, the long, thin robots are equipped with a camera and programed to "wriggle" their way toward disaster victims, explained Innovation News Daily.
While the technology has been around for a while, what's new is that the search snakes are now being teamed with real live dogs.
It's an ideal pairing, according to IEEE Spectrum: the dog, with its keen sense of smell and running ability, detects the person trapped underground or in rubble, approaches as close as it safely can, then drops off the snakebot to slither in and take a closer look – which can then be relayed to human rescuers further away.
That means, of course, that dogs have to activate the robots – something that doesn't seem to prove a problem, to judge by this demonstration by one of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's German Shepherds, Freitag. He's carrying the snakebot in a special pouch in his harness, which releases its contents when he barks:
The inventors call it the Canine Assisted Robot Deployment (CARD) system. It's the joint creation of the Network-Centric Applied Research Team Lab at Ryerson University in Canada – which came up with the "bark-activated" harness – and the Biorobotics Lab at Carnegie Mellon University in the US, which developed the snakebot.
Robots maybe be much better at getting into tight or dangerous nooks and crannies, but there's no danger of them one day replacing search dogs, Alex Ferworn of the Canadian lab told Innovation News:
"Some investigators have been flippant about prematurely predicting the demise of the use of the dog in this situation," Ferworn said. "But the reason task forces use dogs is that they work — robots don't work for the same thing."