U.S. Considers Turning Scooters Into War Robots
Researchers at MIT, the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University, and elsewhere have received Pentagon funding to modify the self-balancing Segway Human Transporter to autonomously open doors, traverse rough terrain, and chase soccer balls, but the military wants to one day employ them as battlefield robots that can communicate with troops, haul equipment, or carry injured soldiers out of harm’s way.
Segway inventor Dean Kamen welcomes university research into potential military applications of his two-wheeled scooter, noting that anything that boosts the machine’s usability is good news for his company, which is in desperate need of sales revenues. Some 15 Segways have been purchased and sent to university and government research facilities over the past several months.
Jan Walker of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency reports that this strategy relieves researchers of the need to develop a mode of transportation so they can focus on the design of Mobile Autonomous Robot Software, and share open-source programs on a common platform.
Four-wheeled robot vehicles currently employed by the military cannot make turns as tight as those performed by the Segway, while the scooter’s high center of gravity allows for the placement of sensors and cameras at a height more suitable for human interaction.
Segway chief development engineer John Morrell believes government sales of the scooter could help reduce the machine’s price and make the product more affordable to consumers.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the Associated Press (11/28/03) .