For Earthquake Aid, Japan Sends In the Robots

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Japan is home to some of the most advanced robotic technology available. So when disaster strikes, search and rescue is carried through with the help of dedicated automatons.

IEEE Spectrum reports that two separate robotic teams are deploying on the field in Japan. One is working in tsunami-stricken Sendai (see video of the city’s airport being flooded) and one in Tokyo. The first team, led by the Sendai-based Satoshi Tadokoro, will bring a device called Active Scope Camera, an eight-meter-long, snakelike contraption that manages to wiggle itself into spaces as tight as three centimeters wide, thanks to an elaborate set of cilia that vibrate in unison. At the end of the probe, there’s a a camera with a powerful light that feeds video back to operators on the surface. Satoshi Tadokoro is also president of Rescue Systems, a research body that explores the use of high technologies in response to disaster.

(More on See the calamity of Japan’s 8.9-magnitude quake)

The second team is led by Eiji Koyanagi, director of the Future Robotics Technology Center at the Chiba Institute of Technology. Dr Koyanagi and his team will bring Quince, a flat robot with tracked wheels; the robot is equipped with a camera and a carbon dioxide sensor to detect the presence of survivors in locations out of reach to rescuers.

(More on See the top 10 deadliest earthquakes)

These two teams and their robots were actually in the U.S. when disaster struck. They were at “Disaster City,” at Texas A&M University. “Disaster City” hosted American and Japanese researchers that jointly tested their bots using a mock-up terrain that simulates the same kind of environment that researchers will find on the battered eastern coast of Japan.

Texas A&M is also the home turf of the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue, or CRASAR, led by Dr. Robin Murphy, one of the worlds’ leading experts on SAR robots. These bots roamed the grounds of the the Twin Towers after 9/11 and worked in New Orleans after Katrina. Now, these technologies can prove themselves in Japan. (Via IEEE Spectrum)