This avatar-like robot has the potential to rescue victims from disaster sites, aid the disabled, and treat the wounded. Meet ThePartner, the futuristic robot created by soldiers from the Israel Navy and Air Force in their free time.
ThePartner, with its one-dynamic arm and inquisitive stare, was impossible to miss at this year’s IDF (Zahal)-sponsored Machanet Tech-Shop. At the Machanet, tech gurus from Israel’s security sector network and showcase their creative, homemade gadgets. While ThePartner is the brainchild of Sergeant Major O., an electrical engineer in the navy, he teamed up with Majors A., Ts. and S. to take his hobby to the next level.
Just like in a game of “Simon Says,” ThePartner mimics your movement. Sliding on what looked like an old gardening glove with wires and circuit boards, Sgt. Maj. O. demonstrated his avatar. The instant he moved his fingers, ThePartner, standing feet away, did the same.
“We wanted to see if we could create a uniquely versatile, remote-controlled robot that moves like a human,” explains Sgt. Maj. O. “With a minimal budget, we printed ThePartner on my home 3-D printer, using open-source code by InMoov. We used recycled parts, like an old curtain rod and toy tractor wheels for the ‘legs.’ Next, we started controlling the robot’s movement using Arduino microcontrollers.” What’s extraordinary about ThePartner is that it hooks up to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, so it can operate anywhere in the world. In the future, the team will install cameras in the TheParter’s “eyes.”
Envision having your own personal assistant that loads the dishes, answers calls and pours your coffee. That’s what Maj. Ts. foresees: “In 10 years’ time, we could be experiencing the Internet of Things, wherein robots like ThePartner will communicate over the Internet with all the devices in your home, like your phone or laundry machine.” For someone who is wheelchair bound, ThePartner would be game-changing. “Imagine using just your hands to move ThePartner remotely to take care of day-to-day tasks,” explains Major Ts. Add artificial intelligence into the mix, and you could be looking at the ultimate partner that takes care of errands autonomously.
If disaster strikes, ThePartner could be sent to hostile or toxic environments to evacuate victims, repair machinery, neutralize explosives or even treat the wounded. “Picture a medic sitting kilometers away from a disaster site, and bandaging a wound for a bleeding victim through ThePartner’s eyes and hands,” explains Sgt. Maj. O.
What began as a purely creative endeavor has turned into the next big thing in robotics. In three months, the team will demo ThePartner at an international tech conference in Israel. With the ever persistent threats of natural disaster and terror, ThePartner may well be our greatest ally in saving lives.