Aug. 9 - A team of Colombian students is developing a bomb-deactivating robot that responds to human muscle movement. Using sensors and wireless technology, the students say their robot, called Prometheus, will bring a new level of precision to the delicate task of disarming explosives. Rob Muir reports.
Prometheus is a robot designed to dismantle bombs. Controlled by the electrical signals generated by muscle movement, Prometheus is being developed to save lives in war-torn Colombia where car bombs and landmines are a constant threat. Decades of civil war have left parts of Colombia peppered with unexploded ordnance. Car bombs have killed hundreds. Prometheus has been built to replace humans in de-activating them. And while bomb disposal robots are not new, engineering student Jose Fernando Gomez and his colleagues at Bosque University, say the muscle signalling technology in Prometheus is a significant improvement over conventional systems. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) ENGINEERING STUDENT, JOSE FERNANDO GOMEZ DAVILA, SAYING: "The systems that activate the bomb deactivating cars are digital and are very strict. They are steps. On the other hand, using electronic pulses in the body is a more analogue signal which allows for precise control. It isn't a big step from level one to level two. If not at level one, one-point-two, one-point-three, etcetera. It allows for much more sensitive movement of the car and the claws." And with a camera transmitting live images from the scene, the students say a robot that moves in concert with the muscles of a trained operator will allow a greater degree of precision than ever before. Juan Carlos Calderon says the technology begins with sensors attached to the skin. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) ENGINEERING STUDENT, JUAN CARLOS CALDERON PUMAREJO, SAYING: "By capturing the electric pulses muscles make, amplifying them and filtering them we are able to get a function which we pass through a circuit - a program that we designed on the computer - and using radio waves at the right frequency we send them to the car so it works like it is supposed to." Prometheus's name comes from the mythical Greek figure known for his pursuit of scientific knowledge. With bomb attacks on the rise in Colombia, the team hopes their robot will soon be ready to turn knowledge into action.