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The latest twist on getting robots to do dangerous jobs–like carrying wounded soldiers out of the line of fire–comes from a company called Vecna Technologies: the Bear, short for “battlefield extraction and retrieval robot.” Currently just a prototype, the Bear has been able to pick up a fully weighted human dummy and, in an upright position, carry it for more than 50 minutes straight, according to the company.
The Bear prototype requires wireless operation by a person, but Vecna says it will eventually have more autonomous behaviors. The tracked-machine can balance on its hips, knees or ankles. The project has received funding from the U.S. Army’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center.
In the long term, Vecna imagines its robot design working in more domestic environments. A version it’s calling the HomeBear might find a place helping people with impaired mobility get around their home. Other versions might find work in hospitals–for instance, helping patients get from bed to bathroom, or repositioning less-mobile patients to prevent bed sores.