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Life Saving BEAR


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Vecna Technologies’ Battlefield Extraction and Retrieval Robot, or BEAR, can be operated remotely to find people in need of assistance, and then rescue them by picking them up and carrying them to safety. The BEAR robot marries a high-power, hydraulic upper body, an ultra-agile, tracked lower body with “legs,” and dynamic balancing behavior (DBB). DBB is what the Segway uses to maintain its balance on two wheels. The BEAR’s tracked legs can move independently or in tandem, which enables this robot to traverse very rough terrain, climb stairs and essentially navigate through an obstacle course such as a bombed-out building interior.

Daniel Theobald, Vecna president and chief BEAR inventor.

As an anthropomorphic robot, it maps extremely well to full-body motion capture as a means of controlling all joints in a straightforward, intuitive way. The prototype in the photo used a Segway RMP unit for locomotion and DBB; the tracked legs will offer much more mobility. The BEAR can lift up to 500 pounds with its hydraulic arms, and therefore, can be used as a “beast of burden” in many civilian or military applications. It has a light touch when holding a human body, is immune to radiological, chemical or biological agents and also shows great promise for use in hospitals and nursing homes. Jonathan Klein, Vecna’s Director of Robotics R&D, notes, “As a semi-autonomous robot skilled in doing patient transfers, it could become the key helper for getting people with mobility impairments in and out of bed, or into and out of chairs – for seniors and others, it’s a robot that could keep many of us living on our own terms, and out of a nursing home.”

Dr. Gary Gilbert, program manager at TATRC, the US Army’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center, said that “Robotic extraction of combat casualties from under fire or from hostile or contaminated environments is the “holy grail” of the TATRC mobile robotics program. The BEAR prototype as envisioned in the Vecna proposal and current research contract is the most promising approach I have seen to safely extracting casualties from urban and wooded terrain or from other areas with numerous obstacles that would impede entrance by other vehicular or aerial robots. The versatility and flexibility of the BEAR that would enable it to do multiple combat support tasks, such as loading vehicles or carrying heavy equipment, make it more attractive than other robots that can only support a limited set of specialized tasks.”