Coolest Robots of 2009

The latest wave of robot technology can enrich and save lives. Some of the coolest robots highlighted here perform a variety of duties in the healthcare and military fields.

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CCS Robotics builds autonomous robot bases that can be adapted to a variety of uses. The company ships a variety of products including SpeciMinder, a robot that delivers specimens within a hospital so nurses don't have to. The RoboCourier is a "healthcare transporter" designed to makes deliveries within a lab environment.

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You hold onto the wand and magically the robotic device several feet away makes the exact same movements — up, down, sideways, etc. Not only that, through haptics technology, you can "feel" resistance when you bump up against something. This product is being used by researchers working on thing like "virtual surgery."

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Equipped with lasers, ultrasound, cameras and IP connectivity, this robot can be used to provide health care to a person with limited mobility in their own home. RobuLab has natural language capabilities, so, for example, it can remind the patient to take their meds. And it can act as the eyes and ears for medical personnel who can monitor the health of the patient.

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Hook a fire hose to the back of the Segway RMP and it becomes an indestructible firefighter, just what the doctor ordered for things like wildfires. Via remote control, a fire official could maneuver dozens of these robots over rough terrain.

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Leave it to Segway to come up with something like this. It's your basic robot outfitted with a camera and a high-pressure water cannon (not shown in this picture.) The scenario is a suspicious package. The bomb buster trundles up, gets a bead on the package and blasts it with a high-pressure squirt of water that's strong enough to destroy the package and hopefully drown the bomb.

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The PacBot is a lightweight robot that travels with infantry units and can pick up any type of suspicious device and safely remove it.

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This robot can travel at 6 mph and is so light that soldiers can carry it in their backpacks, On the ground, it can climb stairs and do reconnaissance in urban environments. iRobot says it can also be used by local law enforcement in hostage situations. It has audio capabilities, so police could send the robot into a tense situation and negotiate via the robot.

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These expensive military robots aren't controlled with super-duper complex interfaces — it's just your basic controller, which makes it easy for non-techies to get the jobs done.

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The Maars robot by Foster-Miller Co. is a heavy-duty military robot that can lift heavy objects (that's 60 pounds it's holding up) and move them around. Its primary use is bomb disposal.

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The TALON robot by Foster-Miller goes where humans fear to tread, like places where there might be poisonous gas or radiation. It's also a heavy-duty robot for removing explosives from an area.

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For use in mobile robotics platforms and medical rehabilitation scenarios, this is a highly dextrous robotic arm. In this photo, it's holding a promotional CD for itself.

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A closer look at the hand part of the WAM arm. The robot features seven degrees of freedom (DOF), which means it can tilt and move in seven different ways.

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The Keepon by Beetbot is a robot that's designed to interact with children as part of social development research and autism therapy. The eyes are cameras and the nose is a microphone.