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Brief: Controlling Many Robots At One Time

Soldiers and first responders could deal with dangerous situations in hostile environments without ever setting foot in them, thanks to a new touch-screen interface that lets one operator direct different robots simultaneously.

Robot developer iRobot is developing a networked technology called Sentinel that enables a single operator to control numerous robots with a touch-screen computer.

The technology, which is funded by the U.S. Army's Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) program, could be used by a soldier to carry out surveillance and mapping tasks.

A Sentinel operator could utilize the technology's intelligent navigation capabilities to overcome various obstacles to reach a preset destination without the operator intervening, iRobot said. Noting that teams of its PackBot robots could use Sentinel, iRobot said soldiers and first responders could deal with dangerous situations in hostile environments without ever setting foot in them.

The company has developed a wide range of commercial and military robots. About 700 PackBot robots have been deployed by U.S. military units in Iraq and Afghanistan, a spokesman said.

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