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Using Robots to Help Victims of Disaster

This ScienceLives article was provided to LiveScience in partnership with the National Science Foundation.

Robots have been making progress in the rescue and recovery arena for more than a decade, and while they have grown more capable at navigating rubble, their people skills have been lacking — a critical obstacle for assisting panicked, injured or young victims. Stanford University's Clifford Nass is helping address that concern in partnership with Robin Murphy, director of the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue at Texas A&M University.

Good communication between people and machines is needed to ensure effective robotics and is especially critical in the life and death situations at disaster sites. A professor of communications, Nass also supports departments of computer science, education, law, sociology, science, technology, and society and symbolic systems (cognitive science). This well-rounded experience helps him guide the development of user-friendly robots.

For more on the human-machine interfaces under development by Nass and Murphy, read the NSF Discovery article, and for more on Nass and his diverse experiences watch him answer the ScienceLives 10 Questions below.

Name: Clifford Nass
Age: 53
Institution: Stanford University
Field of Study: Professor of communication with appointments in computer science; education; law; science, technology, and society; sociology; and symbolic systems.

Editor's Note: This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the federal agency charged with funding basic research and education across all fields of science and engineering. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. See the ScienceLives archive.

For more information on Survivor Buddy, a joint project between Texas A&M University and Stanford University, watch the video below from Texas A&M University. The project aims to develop a web-enabled search and rescue robot.