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This Robot Disarms Bombs Through Virtual Reality

Virtual reality becomes the new worst enemy of bombs.

Thanks to VR and a robot, bomb disposal squads can now neutralize explosives like never before. Operators previously controlled SRI International’s Taurus Dexterous Robot through a 3D monitor and remote controls, directing its precise limbs to defuse bombs or remove hazardous materials.

Now, an operator can strap on an Oculus Rift headset and manipulate the 15-pound robot’s arms and graspers through the headset’s Oculus Touch controllers, WIRED reports.

Taurus is now controllable via the Oculus Rift headset and Touch controllers. (Image Credit: WIRED)

“Not only does it make you feel more immersed and connected with the remote world that you’re operating,” SRI’s associate R&D director Mark Baybutt told WIRED, “but it also offers very unique and interesting human machine interfaces that we can actually create with different buttons or information presented to the user.”

Inside the headset, you’ll gaze through the robot’s magnifying lenses and see virtual icons that show what actions you can take with the Oculus Touch controllers. The new VR system can also provide haptic feedback via the controllers.

“If you need to actually feel either the static forces that it’s pushing on, on a wall or the world, we can do that,” Baybutt said.

SRI’s telerobotics director Thomas Low told VRScout in an email the company is encouraging new Taurus customers to use VR as their “preferred solution,” but he noted current VR headsets aren’t ideal for viewing the bot’s high-resolution recordings.

“The image clarity in the first generation of consumer VR headsets is not sufficient to capture the full video quality available from the Taurus,” Low said, “however, other factors such as enhanced usability and low acquisition cost offset this shortcoming.”

“We anticipate higher resolution consumer HMDs will become available in the near future, and expect these will be accommodated as a field upgrade,” he added.

Clients have so far had a positive reaction to the VR interface and “concerns over VR sickness and long term operator comfort have been shown to have been unfounded,” Low said. SRI International also intends to develop the feature for headsets other than the Oculus Rift.

“We were early adopters of the Rift and Vive, so these are the systems that we presently demo,” Low said, “but as new high spec systems become available, we intend to develop solutions around these as well.”

You can watch a video on the Taurus Dexterous Robot below.

Image Credit: SRI International / WIRED

About the Scout

Dieter Holger

Dieter is an emerging technology journalist reporting for VRScout. Send tips to dieter@vrscout.com and follow him on Twitter @dieterholger.

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