Kinect-powered robot helps locate survivors in collapsed buildings

By Stephany Nunneley, Friday, 25 February 2011 20:34 GMT

A team of engineers at the University of Warwick have developed a robot which can be used to enter collapsed or unstable buildings to search for survivors, and it uses Kinect.

The Warwick Mobile Robotics team created the robot which “can accurately model its surroundings,” and identify places where survivors may be trapped thanks to Kinect.

“The whole idea is to protect the lives of the rescuers,” explained the project’s mechanical engineer Peter Crook to the BBC. “It’s not really designed to bring people who are stuck there out, but it would mean that the rescue services know where they are.”

“What you’d have is a team of maybe two people – it doesn’t take a lot of manpower – and they’d set up outside. From a safe distance they’d drive the robot in and then use that robot to look for victims.”

Last year, the robot was awarded first place at the European Robocup Rescue championship in Germany, and the team is currently looking for further research sponsorship.

“They’re obviously hard to predict and we don’t have the money to fly out there,” said Mr Crook, when mentioning how the robot could help out with the disaster in Christchurch, New Zealand. “We raise all our own funding and so cost is a massive issue for us in what we can and can’t produce.”

Crook said using Kinect for the 3D mapping technology saved the team over £2,000 per robot, and with a developers kit for Kinect being made available for personal use this spring, the team won’t have to worry about Microsoft not supporting their use of the camera for something other than Xbox 360.

“It’s definitely good news for us,” said Cook.

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