SAFFiR, the US Navy's experimental firefighting robot, may be in for some competition. The reason for that is because the researchers at Italy's IIT-Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia have successfully tested a new-and-improved version of the WALK-MAN humanoid robot, which is designed to support firefighters.
WALK-MAN was developed through a European Union-funded project that also includes the University of Pisa in Italy, the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, and the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium. The project began in 2013, with the original version of the robot being completed in 2015.
The robot is remotely controlled by a human operator wearing a sensor-equipped suit, WALK-MAN is intended to enter a building, find a fire, and then put it out with an extinguisher. The robot's head incorporates a 3D laser scanner and microphones, along with video cameras that transmit live video to the operator.
The WALK-MAN stands 1.85m tall and weighs 102kgs. The body of the humanoid robot is made from magnesium alloys and composite materials. The robot can also operate for two hours on one charge of its battery pack.
The design of the hands are human-like-finger-to-palm size ration – this means it's better able to grasp objects designed for use by humans. Additionally, the robot features a version of lightweight actuators used in the arms that are now able to lift 10 kg per arm.
The recent test, you can see the robot successfully open a door to get into a room, locate and close a valve to stop a hypothetical gas leak, remove debris blocking its path, and then locate a fire and use an extinguisher. You can see the WALK-MAN in the video below.