by Sam Laird
Meet the Roomba’s hardcore sibling.
The disc-shaped vacuum’s parent company, iRobot, has created a 450-pound military machine called the Warrior.
The Warrior gets around on tank-like treads and features an approximately six-and-a-half-foot-long mechanical arm that is equally adept at opening car doors or smashing out windows, according to MIT’s Technology Review.
The publication hails the Warrior as a significant step forward for military robotics because of its strength and adaptability. The robot can navigate uneven terrain and lift up to 150 pounds with its mechanical arm.
The Warrior is less than two feet tall, not counting the arm, and about three feet in length. It can travel at up to eight miles per hour, thanks to its electric motor. And, despite its small size, the Warrior is reportedly strong enough pull a large automobile.
The domesticated Roomba may be iRobot’s most well-known creation, but it’s not the company’s only popular robot. The PackBot is a much smaller machine that American military troops carry like a backpack before deploying for tasks such as neutralizing explosive devices.
But iRobot’s vice president of operations for military and industrial robots, Tim Trainer, told Technology Review that the Warrior will be able to carry out a much wider range of tasks because of its larger size and enhanced navigability.
“With the small robots, you really have to optimize them for specific missions,” Trainer said. “With the Warrior, you can provide more flexibility.”
The Warrior is operated remotely using an Xbox controller, and Trainer told Technology Review that it has the potential to lift aside rubble in search-and-rescue operations, open doors to dangerous areas, and down the line will work in concert with attached x-ray or firefighting gear.
Prototypes of the Warrior have already been used in the field. Two were deployed to explored damaged buildings at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan after the nuclear disaster there last year. In one case, Trainer said, workers duct-taped a vacuum cleaner to the Warrior’s arm so that it could suck radioactive dust out of a contaminated room. So maybe the Warrior and Roomba do still share some family ties.