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Even with a map of the building, firefighters often have to grope their way forward if smoke has badly affected visibility, feeling their way along a wall or following ropes laid by the first firefighter on the scene. But with only twenty minutes of oxygen per firefighter, there is a real need for any innovation that can help them move more quickly and easily. Now, firefighters moving through smoke-filled buildings will save vital seconds and find it easier to identify objects and obstacles, thanks to revolutionary reins that enable fire fighting robots to act like guide dogs.
Firefighters moving through smoke-filled buildings could save vital seconds and find it easier to identify objects and obstacles, thanks to revolutionary reins that enable robots to act like guide dogs.
The small mobile robot — equipped with tactile sensors — would lead the way, with the firefighter following a meter or so behind holding a rein. The robot would help the firefighter move swiftly in “blind” conditions, while vibrations sent back through the rein would provide data about the size, shape and even the stiffness of any object the robot finds.
According to HomeLand Security News Wire, with the new system the firefighter would wear a special sleeve covering their entire arm and incorporating electronic micro-vibrators that turn the signals sent back by the robot into detailed data that the firefighter would have been trained to interpret.
The robot would also sense any hesitation or resistance from the firefighter and adjust its pace accordingly. In addition, it would be programmed to predict the follower’s next actions, based on the way they are moving as well as on their previous actions. In trials, blind-folded volunteers were guided by a robot. By using an algorithm the robot could detect the fire-fighters level of trust.