Life-saving tech for disaster zones

Published 6:20 AM ET, Mon December 9, 2013
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According to the World Bank, since 1980 low-income countries have accounted for only 9% of the world's disasters, yet for 48% of the resultant fatalities. Much of this is down to the expense and inaccessibility of the emergency tech used by wealthier nations. That's why US designer and public policy grad Francisco Aguilar developed Bounce Imaging -- a low cost, all-seeing eye that can be thrown like a baseball into hostile and high-risk situations. Courtesy Bounce Imaging
The shock-absorbent ball, which contains a series of cameras and sensors, can be thrown into dangerous or unknown locations to take panoramic images. It can also have heat sensors, Geiger counters, vibration antennae and smoke detectors installed. All the information is then fed back instantly to a mobile device so that first responders can assess what is round the corner, down a tunnel or amid the rubble. Courtesy Bounce Imaging
A similar concept to Bounce Imaging, 110 FirstLook can be thrown into a risky situation and roll over terrains and into tunnels to take pictures and feed audio back to its controller. The latest robot for US law enforcement, FirstLook provides hasty situational awareness to first responders. However, it is considerably more expensive than Bounce. courtesy iRobot
But what other tools are available for emergency situations? Just as homeowners can protect themselves by using their peephole to identify visitors before opening the door, this simple gadget can reverse the effect so law enforcers can inspect what is going on inside a home before entering. courtesy Shomer Tec
In October 2013, Telerob, developed by aerospace firm Cobham, received two gold medals in EURATHLON, a new robot competition seeking the smartest emergency response robots in the world. Telerob is principally a robotic bomb disposal system but it can handle all sorts of hazardous materials, including in a smoke-filled environment. BERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP/Getty Images
The laser of the Elite Pro is so intense it can burn through even sturdy materials. Featured on Discovery Channel's "Future Weapons", the lasers are used to point a strong beam towards a suspect so as to temporarily thwart their eyesight without causing permanent eye damage. courtesy wicked lasers
Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST) can be used to remotely detect "mal intent" in a person. Using eye trackers, respiratory sensors, thermal cameras, "gesticular analytics" and pheromone detection, Homeland Security hopes to use the technology in, say, airports, to identify potential criminals. There is huge debate surrounding the morality of the technology. Courtesy Department of Homeland Security / Wikicommons
Scientists at Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have developed a miniature flying robot that emulates a wasp or bee. The innovative new mechanical insect serves many purposes, including search & rescue in inaccessible areas, military surveillance or risk assessment.
Safecast was developed in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and nuclear meltdown. It is designed to be used in the wake of a nuclear disaster as a global sensor network for collecting and sharing radiation measurements. The aim is to provide truthful data to the people directly affected. Courtesy Peter Franken
Gimball is a spherical flying robot encased in a flexible cage that allows it to happily smash into surfaces while navigating disaster sites. Unlike other rescue robots, GimBall is able to bounce back without losing its bearings or damaging its in-built camera. Developed by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), it could be used to search for survivors or measure gas leaks in collapsed buildings. Courtesy EPFL
Also developed in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, this protective suit allows emergency services to act very quickly in the event of a nuclear meltdown. The suit's maker's claim that the "brainwave-controlled" exoskeleton allows workers to wear heavy radiation protection without feeling the weight. Sensors detect signals from the brain and the robot's limbs move in tandem with the wearer's, taking weight off the muscles. It is the creation of Japanese tech firm Cyberdyne, who initially developed the technology to help assist people with disabilities. YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images
This Toshiba decontamination robot blasts dry ice particles against contaminated floors or walls and can be used to quickly and effectively clean up chemical spillages at nuclear plants. YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images
This remote-controlled fire fighter by Croatian robotics company Dok Ing is designed to extinguish fires in high risk industrial facilities and areas that may be inaccessible to humans. While the operators remain outside of the range of danger, the MVF-5 fire fighting vehicle is robust enough to survive even mine detonations. BERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP/Getty Images
Each year millions of people are displaced by natural disasters and extreme weather. Swedish furniture maker IKEA has introduced a flat-pack housing solution that could provide affordable, effective and quickly assembled shelter for homeless refugees. Courtesy IKEA