Robots have seemingly unlimited potential when it comes to search and rescue operations - they can enter hazardous environments, quickly map dangerous areas for first responders, and help establish communication links and a game plan for larger recovery and triage efforts. But in these scenarios, humans aren't going anywhere. We still need breathing, thinking bodies on the ground. So a team at MIT has built a wearable sensor pack that can "roboticise" human first responders, allowing the first person into a dangerous environment to digitally map it in realtime, just like a robot.
The prototype platform consists of a variety of sensors - accelerometers, gyroscopes, a camera, and a LiDAR (light detection and ranging) rangefinder, among others - affixed to a sheet of plastic roughly the size of a tablet computer, which is in turn strapped to the user's chest. These sensors wirelessly beam data to a laptop, allowing others to remotely view the user's progress through an environment. It also allows the sensor platform to build a digital map of the area as the user moves through it, providing the responders that follow with far more situational awareness than they would have otherwise.
Australian Popular Science
25 Sep 2012