The Fukushima Daiichi meltdown and other recent disasters like Deepwater Horizon highlight a very real need for robotic first responders that can operate in inhospitable environments. In response, DARPA recently issued a Robotics Challenge addressing the issue. Here's the design that Carnegie Mellon University's National Robotics Engineering Center (CMU NREC) hopes will take home the challenge's $2 million purse—and save lives some day.
While the US Army has been using EOD robots as human stand-ins for high-risk bomb disposal for years now, these bots simply aren't designed to move around in a world designed for people—what with all the stairs, door knobs, ladders, and such—and especially not in disaster areas with piles of rubble to traverse. Building a robot capable of overcoming these obstacles is no mean feat either; enter the DARPA Robotics Challenge.