Robots which will scoop up bloodied, wounded soldiers and carry them off to the army medic? A scary thought, unless the robot in question has the head of a cuddly Teddy Bear! The US Military (in conjunction with Vecna Robotics) is developing exactly that. Officially known as the Battlefield Extraction and Retrieval Robot, or BEAR, the robot will be able to lift soldiers weighing up to 500 pounds and wheel or walk them to safety. The adorable Teddy Bear head was designed to put traumatized soldier at ease. As one Army project manager put it:
"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."
And when the BEAR isn't rescuing the wounded, it will be busy preventing bedsores in hospitals. From Vecna's website:
"The SCI-BEAR robot is an in-hospital solution that benefits both patients and hospital staff. Designed especially to comfortably lift, carry and set down the injured, this version of the BEAR is also optimized for the hospital environment. Able to negotiate tight spaces in semi-private rooms, the SCI-BEAR has specially-designed software systems that aid the operator in performing safe, successful repositioning and transfers."
Vecna has no explanation as to why their company is named after the Dungeons and Dragons Master of All That is Secret and Hidden.
Look for the Battlefield Extraction and Retrieval Robot rolling your way in 2012.