iRobot’s Bedford, Massachusetts headquarters is literally crawling (well, rolling) with robots of all shapes and sizes, from friendlier household fare like Scoobas and Roombas, to the 450-pound Warrior battlefield ‘bot, which patrols the perimeter, looking for mock IEDs. The highlight of our trip this week, however, had to be the time we spent with 110 FirstLook. Sure, durability is job number one, when you’re building products for the military, but the plucky little robot takes things to a whole new level.
At five pounds, you can pick the thing up and toss it — in fact, the company encourages such action. The FirstLook was built to be thrown into dangerous areas, and it’s rugged enough to smash through plate glass windows to get there. The ‘bot has a patch of skateboard-like grip tape on its top, opposite the bendable antenna, so you can easily grab it with single hand. You toss the FirstLook side arm, like a frisbee, and no matter what side it lands on, the rubber treads will cushion the blow a bit. If it happens to hit the ground upside down (with the antenna on the bottom), the triangle wings on either side can be slowly extended in either direction to right the robot. Same goes for when it bounces down a flight of stairs, unharmed.
When it comes to war, man and machine will work in tandem in order to achieve victory across all fronts, no matter the cost. Of course, this is the rallying cry of this day and age, but in earlier years before technology became so pervasive, it was just man and animal, with the calvary charging downhill towards the enemy camp. Well, we first took a gander at the iRobot 110 FirstLook last year, and it seems that this robot has been drafted for military use. This robot is unique, as it is hardy enough to survive throws (which it was meant to go through anyway) to a place deemed to be too dangerous for a foot soldier to check it out himself. Upon landing, this robot will self-right itself if it lands belly up, and will send video back to headquarters thanks to its quartet of integrated cameras, in addition to sending radio communication. Seems like the perfect spy bot that will definitely catch unsuspecting enemy soldiers by surprise before they realize what it is.
iRobot 110 FirstLook Throwable Sentry Bot
When I hear the name iRobot, the first thing that comes to mind is that silly Roomba. Yeah, it’s pretty clever how they can get a vacuum to roam around a room on its own, but the iRobot 110 FirstLook looks like it could be infinitely more useful.
A flattened remote control car with tank treads would be an accurate description, but this little robot can provide “hasty situational awareness” and perform “persistent observation.” It’s got a wireless camera on there (including IR for night vision) and, better still, it’s tough enough to survive fifteen foot drops onto concrete. That’s why they say it’s a “throwable” bot.
Those little treads sometimes aren’t enough, which is why they’ve included a couple of crutch-like legs that can reach out and push the iRobot over obstacles as high as 8 inches. That’s not a lot, but it’ll get over train tracks, up flights of stairs, and on top of other robots. Pretty neat.
In the wake of the Sendai earthquake (and the ensuing tsunami) in Japan, I can totally see how robots like these can be incredibly useful in search and rescue missions. That, or in Hollywood movies where they’re afraid of a bomb threat and need to sneak their way in to get a look. A first look, as it were.