Could Robot Cockroaches Help Haiti Earthquake Victims?

Tech wizards at UC Berkeley's Department of Electrical Engineering are developing mini-robots to help locate earthquake survivors easily, cheaply, and quickly … and without jeopardizing the lives of rescuers.

The robot is known as Dash. It's made of cardboard, plastic, and parts of computers and bits of old toys, and it's operated by remote control.

The goal of the project: to develop swarms of the cheap, diminutive robots that can hunt down the survivors of disasters such as the earthquake that's laid waste to Haiti. The long-term goal is to equip Dash with heat sensors, a Wi-Fi wireless Internet connection and cameras, as well as the capability to relay the location of survivors back to the surface.

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Unlike today's current search and rescue robots, Dash can be built in about an hour (with the right materials in place), and at very little cost. But it's the design that makes it truly unique: It scurries around like a cockroach, climbing over obstacles and entering tight spaces inaccessible to people.

Dash is still years away from being deployed in a real-life disaster, but engineers are hopeful that if it performs as they hope, the robot will have limitless applications -- not just after an earthquake, but a tornado, an explosion… even a chemical spill. In any situation where people are trapped, one day, miniature robots like this one could well save lives.