9/11: Are We More Prepared – The Robot Perspective

Being a New Yorker, I will never forget what happened on that crisp September morning.  It was surreal.  The memories still linger – picking up my daughter from school along with the other hoards of people heading uptown, the red sky that smelled like burnt plastic, the debris that buried so many alive.  In the first days, we were so hopeful for survivors that many of us lined up at the Red Cross building to give blood only to be turned away telling us that it was a futile endeavor.

Ten years later, what has changed?  We hope our security, even if we walk barefoot to our Airport Gate.  This past summer the East Coast experienced an Earthquake and Hurricane within days of each other.  Miraculously, we were better prepared than our brethren down in New Orleans.   I have written many times that in order for us to counter disasters we need robot armies that go the epicenter of flames.  This investment is definitely more worthwhile than Robots folding cloths or tasting wine.   Since 9/11 there have been many new robotic inventions, today I will profile one that was featured on CNN earlier this week.

Today, First Responders can send iRobot’s PackBot into areas “too hot” for humans to dig through rubble and search for survivors.  These “shoe-box” sized robots have tank-like treads for wheels and crane-like arms armed with HD cameras. In fact, Infantries worldwide use Packbots to seek and destroy bombs in advance of human battalions. This is not science fiction, but in use today worldwide. Last March, we all gasped at the site of the nuclear engineers entering the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan after the tsunami. However, what we didn’t see was Packbots rolling in to check radiation levels and air temperatures before the humans arrived on the scene.

So as we pause on Sunday to remember, we should honor those lost by living worthwhile lives committed to the safety and peace of one another, even if we need a little robotic help every once and while.



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