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Robocop to the Rescue
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Robocop to the Rescue

It's hard to find someone who has not experienced the strangely cultural implications of the movie Robocop. Drawing inspiration from the movie, a real life application of Robocop has come to the rescue of police and military personnel who have been disabled while serving their country and citizens. This will surely help them, get their jobs back and to serve their people once again.

The credit lies entirely with the Florida International University’s Dream Labs. It took 18 months for a group of researchers and students to invent the ‘TeleBot’, a real life version of the fictional Robocop. The TeleBot allows people to operate it by tele-presence, i.e. remotely from any part of the world by using the internet.

Nagarajan Prabhakar, is an associate professor in the department of computer science and stated that the prototype created by the lab enables the user to remotely control the robot, see everything visible to it and interact with public.

The prototype functions with two high quality web cameras installed as the robot’s “eyes” which enables the user to see everything that the robot sees by generating a live, 3D view. A computer is installed in the robot’s metallic frame to receive the commands from the user. By the use of 30 sensors attached to their shoulders, elbows, head and fingers, the user is able to control the movement of the robot. A joystick is used to move the robot in all directions.

Jamie Denow, a student who is a part of the developing committee himself and is missing a right arm, can no longer bend his left arm. He was thrilled at being given the opportunity to develop Telebot and was of the opinion that he will be able to do the job pretty well since he was missing a limb himself and understood the difficulties faced by people with parts of their upper body disabled. His duty was to create a user interface for the TeleBot and he remains committed to this very duty.

The TeleBot has its downside since it has come to the rescue of only those who have disabilities below their waist line. Researchers hope that the future holds a promise to develop it further to be helpful to those disabled above their waists as well. However, they are currently planning to develop an interface in which users could operate the robot entirely only by moving their feet.

The project to help the military was in fact initiated by the military itself. It all started a year ago when Jeremy Robins, a worker in the United States Navy, made a donation of 20 thousand dollars to the Discovery Labs to initiate the project and develop the idea proposed in the film released back in the 80's.

What comes as a surprise is that major contributions to the project were done by students who are still undergraduates, working under a limited budget and a pretty tight schedule because of their educational commitments as well.

The researchers also made good use of the fact that the launch of their prototype was quite close to that of the remake of the Robocop movie. They demonstrated their prototype, which cost about 50 thousand dollars at the premier of the movie and was quickly lapped up by thousands of fans, giving it instant attention.

The TeleBot prototype has been named “Hutch”. The origin of the name comes from Starksy and Hutch, which is a television show back from the seventies as well as a movie released in the last decade. The robot is about 6 feet high and weighs close to 75 pounds.

Many officers of military and police would be surely thrilled at seeing a Robocop come to their rescue, but what future it holds is for the people to witness. Though the idea looks promising, its military applications are yet to be seen. It can be wished that it turns out to be a big success for both the researchers and the disabled officers.


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