Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot

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The Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot (BEAR) is a military robot under the development of Vecna Technologies that will be used for the extraction of wounded soldiers from the battlefield with no risk to human life. The humanoid robot uses a powerful hydraulics system to carry humans and other heavy objects over long distances and rough terrain such as stairs. The robot's cameras and microphone allow an operator to remotely control the BEAR. Daniel Theobald invented the robot in 2005 and it was featured in Time Magazine's Best Inventions of 2006. The BEAR is currently still being developed and tested for applications on and off of the battlefield.[1]

Features and technology[edit]

The BEAR is a six feet tall humanoid robot with advanced technology and features that make the robot effective and intelligent. It is remotely controlled, has several sensors, and contains a hydraulic actuator.

Specifications[edit]

  • Six feet tall
  • Hydraulic upper body lifts 520 lbs[2]
  • Steel torso
  • Maximum hydraulic exertion of 3000 PSI[1]

Controls[edit]

The initial versions of the BEAR were remotely controlled by a human operator who was able to see and hear through the robot's sensors. Developments to the BEAR's AI have given the robot the ability to process higher lever commands given by an operator such as "go to this location" or "pick up that box."[1] If the robot is unable to execute the operator's command, it is programmed to ask the operator for assistance to complete a task.[3]

The robot may also be remotely controlled by a soldier through a device known as the iGlove. The motion-capture glove developed by AnthroTronix allows the soldier to make a simple hand gesture to command the BEAR. Another remote control for the BEAR is called the Mounted Force Controller. It's a specialized rifle grip mounted on an M-4 carbine so soldiers can continue to command the BEAR without putting down their weapon.[4]

Actuators[edit]

The BEAR is powered through a hydraulic actuator which gives the robot the ability to lift 520 pounds. The hydraulic actuator is controlled by solenoids that turn the hydraulic valves on and off to make the robot move.[1] The BEAR's tracked legs are electronically powered. The battery pack powers the tracked legs for up to an hour. Further developments to the battery pack should double its capacity and give the BEAR's tracked legs two hours of run time.[3]

Sensors[edit]

The current version of the BEAR robot has infrared, night vision, and optical cameras as well as a microphone.[3]

Later developments will include:
Touch and pressure sensors on the BEAR's hands
Chemical and biological agent detection sensors[5]

Features[edit]

The BEAR's hands are very strong; however they are also precise enough to grasp an egg without breaking it.[3] Vecna's roboticists designed the robot with a teddy bear face to provide those being rescued comfort and reassurance.[2] Dynamic Balance Behavior (DBB) technology gives the BEAR the ability to maintain balance in any position even while carrying heavy objects.[6]

Development history[edit]

Project origins[edit]

Vecna Technologies began developing the Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot in 2005 at the Cambridge Research Laboratory near Boston, Massachusetts. The inventor of the BEAR is the president and CTO of Vecna Technologies, Daniel Theobald.[6]

Technological developments[edit]

The BEAR's technology and features have improved dramatically since its early stages of development. The BEAR is currently in its ninth stage of development. Numerous features have been added since the BEAR's early stages, such as

  • Explosion and fire-resistant treads
  • Explosion and fire-resistant battery
  • Enhanced dexterity
  • Improved strength
    • The BEAR can lift 520 pounds, previous versions could only lift 360 pounds
    • Steel Frame (4x stronger than its aluminum predecessor)[1]
  • Independent legs for enhanced mobility[5]
  • Steel framing around the hydraulic lines and battery[3]

Project funding[edit]

The BEAR project's primary funding source has been from Vecna's internal research and development funds. External sources of funding come from the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and DARPA. The project also has numerous sponsors including Hydro-Force, Microchip and National Instruments.[3] In 2007, Congress approved a $1 million grant towards further development of the BEAR project.[1]

Testing[edit]

The BEAR has been tested at Fort Benning, Georgia at the U.S. Army Infantry Center Maneuver Battle Lab with soldiers. In 2010, soldiers worked with the robot to develop tactics and test its effectiveness in combat scenarios.[4]

Future developments[edit]

In the future the BEAR will be switching to a titanium frame to increase its lifting capabilities.[1] The current model is version 7.2. The next-generation model of BEAR, version 8, is expected to arrive in 2012. Version 8.0 is expected to be substantially lighter than its predecessors, have more sensors, and be able to accomplish more tasks on its own.[3] Vecna roboticists are working to improve the BEAR's ability to process high-level commands, navigate, and interact with its environment.[5]

Applications[edit]

The BEAR can carry a wounded soldier far away from a hazardous environment to a place where a medic can assess their injuries safely without risk to the medic's life. The BEAR is slim enough to fit through doors and the BEAR's tracks enable it to climb stairs.[1]

Other application of the BEAR include:
  • Search & rescue
  • Transporting supplies
  • Clearing obstacles
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Handling hazardous materials
  • Reconnaissance
  • Inspecting for mines and IEDs[7]

Future applications[edit]

Off of the battlefield the BEAR is ideal for rescuing people:

  • In a mine shaft
  • In areas contaminated with biological, nuclear, or chemical toxins
  • Inside an unsafe building after an earthquake, fire, mudslide, or explosion[7]

The robot may have industrial and commercial applications such as picking up, carrying, and safely moving heavy inventory. In the healthcare field the BEAR could safely transfer heavy patients in hospitals, assist handicapped people, and help seniors living at home.[1][8]

Robots similar to the BEAR[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Klein, Jonathan, and Tom Atwood. " Vecna Robot Exclusive." Robot n. pag. Web. 19 Jan 2011. <http://www.botmag.com/articles/04-25-07_vecna_bear.shtml>.
  2. ^ a b "Bear robot rescues wounded troops ." BBC News. BBC, 7 June 2007. Web. 19 Jan 2011. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6729745.stm>.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Allen, Andrew. Interview by Sander Olson. 1. Web. 26 Jan 2011. <http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/09/andrew-allen-of-bear-robot-program-is.html>.
  4. ^ a b Ruppert, Barb. "The Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot to Rescue Wounded on Battlefield." American Military News. MilitaryInfo, 22 Nov 2010. Web. 26 Jan 2011. <http://www.militaryinfo.com/news_story.cfm?textnewsid=6556>.
  5. ^ a b c "The BEAR Battlefield Extraction Assist Robot." Vecna Robotics. Vecna, n.d. Web. 25 Jan 2011. <http://vecna.com/robotics/multimedia/downloads/BEAR.pdf>.
  6. ^ a b "Battle Extraction Assist Robot." Military Channel. Discovery Channel, n.d. Web. 26 Jan 2011. <http://military.discovery.com/technology/robots/heavy-ugv/bear.html>.
  7. ^ a b "The BEAR™ — Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot." Vecna Robotics. Vecna, n.d. Web. 19 Jan 2011. <http://www.vecna.com/robotics/solutions/bear/index.shtml>.
  8. ^ "The BEAR: Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot™." medGadget (2007): 1. Web. 26 Jan 2011. <http://medgadget.com/archives/2007/06/the_bear_battlefield_extractionassist_robot.html>.

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