The Bear robot to the rescue

Vecna Robotics has built a prototype of the BEAR Robot for the U.S. Army. This robot has been designed to find, pick up and rescue wounded soldiers in dangerous areas. In fact, the Battlefield Extraction and Retrieval Robot (BEAR), which for the moment is remotely controlled, can safely carry a human -- or other payload -- for almost one hour.

According to Associated Content, Vecna Robotics has built a prototype of the BEAR Robot for the U.S. Army. This robot has been designed to find, pick up and rescue wounded soldiers in dangerous areas. In fact, the Battlefield Extraction and Retrieval Robot (BEAR), which for the moment is remotely controlled, can safely carry a human (or other payload up to 500 pounds) for about 50 minutes. For a robot which will have to go to combat zones, it looks surprisingly humanoid to me. Let's hope it will not be shot while evacuating a soldier from the battlefield. But read more...

Here is the introduction of the Associated Content article.

One of the most dangerous jobs in a combat situation is the extraction and evacuation of a wounded soldier while still under fire. This is especially true in the current war against terrorism, which features enemies that are not likely to respect the noncombatant status of medics.
A company called Vecna Robotics believes that it has come up with a solution. The company proposes to build, for the United States Army, the Battlefield Extraction and Retrieval Robot (BEAR), which will take over the job of evacuating wounded soldiers from a combat zone.

Below you can see a "visualization of the BEAR robot PV2 carrying an injured servicemember." (Credit: Vecna Robotics)

BEAR robot carrying a soldier

And here are some technical details about this robot provided by the company.

The BEAR robot's patent-pending technology is a marriage of three elements: A powerful upper body controlled by hydraulics; an agile mobility platform that features two independent sets of tracked "legs"; and dynamic balancing behavior, or DBB. DBB is the capability of the robot to balance itself while on the balls of its "ankles", as shown in the standing image of the BEAR, at right. In fact, the BEAR will be able to remain upright whether balancing on its ankles, its knees, or even its hips.

The image below illustrates these three major components. (Credit: Vecna Robotics)

BEAR robot carrying a soldier

Even if a prototype model has been built, tested, and -- even more importantly -- funded, the BEAR robot will not be present on battlefields before a while. This is probably why Vecna Robotics has envisioned other applications for its robots. Let's return to the Associated Content article for a short description of other robots based on the BEAR design.

The SCI-BEAR robot could be used in hospitals and nursing homes to help people with conditions like spinal cord injuries. [...] A SCI-BEAR robot would relieve nursing staff from performing these tasks, freeing them for other duties and saving them from back strain.
The HomeBEAR robot could perform the same task for the mobility impaired who live at home. The HomeBear could be a domestic assistant to help with Activities of Daily Living (help walking, getting in and out of bed, chairs, bathtub, shower, cars; help getting dressed, and other activities) for the disabled and the frail elderly, helping to keep these large demographic populations living independently with affordable costs.

Neither this article nor the company are giving indications about the prices for such robots. The company doesn't say either when these BEAR robots become available.

Sources: Mark Whittington, for Associated Content, August 28, 2006; and Vecna Robotics web site

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