The resemblance to C3PO is purely coincidental. Not.
The United States Navy is working with Virginia Tech University to develop a new humanoid robot firefighter designed to fight shipboard fires that bears a passing resemblance to C3PO.
It will be able to reduce the risk of deaths and injuries because it will tackle flames in thick choking smoke. It will also be able to go where humans go, ladders included, and will even be able to respond to human gestures.
Officially it is being called the Autonomous Shipboard Humanoid (ASH). The battery-powered robot is being developed by scientists at RoMeLa (Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory) at Virginia Tech University and is a follow on from a previous version called CHARLI or Cognitive Humanoid Autonomous Robot . Professor Dennis Hong, the founder of the robotics program that created CHARLI, said that the new bot is already on its feet and walking and will begin testing on a navy ship early next year – but that that doesn’t mean it’s finished. It still needs protection from extreme temperatures, an array of sensors, some artificial intelligence to help it navigate, and some behavioral programming specific to fighting fires, as well as a decent pair of robotic hands. We note that though CHARLI can walk, its stride is less than half the length of its own feet. It’ll have to do a lot better than that if it’s going to function in an emergency situation. That said, they are working on a heavier model that looks far less fragile that CHARLI.
ASH will be able to throw fire suppression grenades (presumably foam type), and use fire hoses and extinguishers. We can assume from that that it’s going to have considerably more body mass than CHARLI-1, shown in the video insert. We can’t imagine something as light as CHARLI handling a fire hose and not being knocked off his feet in the process.
CHARLI-1 is being touted as the first U.S. built autonomous humanoid robot, and was intentionally patterned after C3PO from Star Wars in the way it was built. The prototype runs for about half an hour on a set of batteries it wears like a fanny pack at its waist, which you can see clearly in the photograph. Its successor ASH will probably have a bigger set of batteries, since it’s to be used in saving lives.
Getting this working by any time next year sounds like a tall order, but ASH already has hand-eye coordination that’s seen as a huge breakthrough in robot technology.
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