Robots are finding more and more applications with every passing day. We have robots taking care of our lawns, cleaning our windows, and even helping the astronauts aboard the ISS. Squishy Robotics has created squishy robots that are designed to be dropped into the disaster zone. These squishy robots will be able to save lives by collecting information about the conditions on the ground.
The squishy robots by Squishy Robotics are about two feet wide and feature video cameras and electronic sensors housed within a ball-shaped lattice of cables and rods that help provide a buffer to the sensitive gear from any hits such as falling to the ground after falling from a great height. The basic idea behind the squishy robots is to have these shape-shifting robots deployed from the aircraft that flies over areas that have been hit by earthquakes, spills of hazardous chemicals, or wildfires. The squishy robots will then collect information and send it to the first responders, thus letting them prepare for the exact situation at hand.
Alice Agogino, a professor of engineering at the University of California at Berkeley and CEO of Squishy Robotics, said, ‘We think that it can save lives’. Alice founded squishy Robotics in 2017 for the commercialization of the technology. According to Agogino, the squishy robots weighing two pounds have undergone testing by getting dropped from a height of 600 feet. The robots survived the fall without incurring any damage. She further says that the squishy robots can survive falls from greater heights as well.
Squishy Robotics is currently working on coming up with a mobile version of the squishy robots. This particular kind will be able to traverse the ground and will use small electric motors for propulsion by shifting the rods and cables for changing the robot’s center of gravity. Agogino said, ‘It’s not going to be fast, and we are not designed for speed. But the advantage is it can go over rough terrain. It can shift its shape to go between boulders and rocks.’
Squishy robots are currently undergoing field-tests by fire departments in Los Angeles and in Texas. Agogino is hopeful that the first commercial version will be available by the end of this year. She says that she was inspired to build squishy robots while working in collaboration with the NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California for creating a robotic probe that was meant for exploring Saturn’s moon Titan
Greg Price, a division director for the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C., expressed enthusiasm for the squishy robot technology, saying it could enhance the “situation awareness” of first responders headed to disaster zones. Price who is the head of the department’s science and technology program for first responders, ‘Situation awareness is paramount. If you have chemical sensors, or whatever the sensors are that you are looking for, or a camera for situation awareness … that can save lives, absolutely.’