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Robots to Crawl Under the City

CowboyNeal posted more than 7 years ago | from the dreaming-of-electric-sheep dept.

94

Johan Louwers writes "Robots will crawl tubes in a short while to investigate power cables running in the tubes to make sure they are still undamaged or in need for a repair. The Robotic Cable Inspection System is developed by Alexander Mamishev, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington. Making use of infrared thermal analysis and acoustic partial discharge analysis, the robot will be checking mile after mile of cable while crawling his way in the tubes."

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94 comments

Now we know (5, Funny)

snarkth (1002832) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394060)

How the Sentinels got their start.

  snarkth

Re:Now we know (1)

snarkth (1002832) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394482)

Well. Therefore I, for one, welcome our new sewer-crawling overlords. Obviously their evolution has been underway for a while already, even if this part of their PR efforts looks like it's slashdotted ;-)

  snarkth

Re:Now we know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17399858)

Wow this "I for one welcome..." post has been up a whole 15 hours without being modded up! You mean the /. moderators are finally getting sick of this shitty meme?

And yes I'm AC'ing because I know there are too many of you out there that still enjoy Tron and the Macarena...

Someone has to say it (3, Funny)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394084)

I, for one, welcome our new robotic underlords.

Re:Someone has to say it (3, Funny)

beckerist (985855) | more than 7 years ago | (#17399978)

THIS IS NOT FUNNY! And no, no one has to say it. This site is perpetually headed waaaaaay downhill, and has never been one for humor (at least humor of the current decade...)

Oh Noes!!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17400212)

I, for one, welcome our new robotic underlords.

Oh No! Now old people cannot even bury their medicine in their backyards anymore. These new spelunking robots will still find the medicine and eat it for fuel!

Um? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17394088)

"to make sure they are still undamaged or in need for a repair"

What else could they possibly be? Do we need robots to make sure boolean variables are either 0 or 1, too?

insufficiently damaged for repair (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17394176)

Between the realm of 0 and 1 lies the vast land known as Round-Off Error.

Re:insufficiently damaged for repair (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394452)

Uh, no. Between 0 and 1 you have statistics, damn statistics, and politicians.

Re:Um? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17394932)

"to make sure they are still undamaged or in need for a repair"
 
What else could they possibly be? Do we need robots to make sure boolean variables are either 0 or 1, too?
Nice catch -- I'm sure the writer meant to say "To determine whether they are still undamaged or in need for a repair and report back its findings."
 

Re:Um? (1)

rbarreira (836272) | more than 7 years ago | (#17403236)

     X       <-------- joke

     O
     |
    ---
     |       <-------- you
     |
    / \
   /   \

Damn... (3, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394110)

Now where are we humans going to hide when Skynet becomes active?

Re:Damn... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17396996)

Inside our realistic-looking but hollowed out robot costumes?

Identifiers? (3, Funny)

Grey_14 (570901) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394124)

I would hope they would make them easy to identify and track, Imagine stumbling upon some weird robotic beasty that washed out of a storm drain and thinking it's the beginning of the robot revolution or something, Maybe they could just write "NOT EVIL" in magic marker or something, that would make ME feel better.

Re:Identifiers? (2, Funny)

prencher (971087) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394240)

Just make the components in google colours.

Re:Identifiers? (1)

Orange Crush (934731) | more than 7 years ago | (#17397640)

Just make the components in google colours.

Considering where the robots will be crawling, I think they're more likely to have a Zune [amazon.com] inspired color scheme.

Re:Identifiers? (5, Funny)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394822)

Maybe they could just write "NOT EVIL" in magic marker or something, that would make ME feel better.

How about "Don't Panic" in nice, friendly letters?

Re:Identifiers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17398588)

How about no red LEDs on these robots. That way they won't turn evil. ;)

I'm ... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17394158)

... in your tubez, stealing your internets!

which tubes? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17394162)

robots...
tubes...

do these actually obey robots.txt? ;)

Will this work in the real world? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17394182)

I hear these horror stories of dealing with the chaos of tranmission lines running under cities. Can the robots really navigate these spiderwebs or do they need special conditions? From the look of this thing you would need straight lines, plenty of clearance, and two rails running next to each transmission line.

Re:Will this work in the real world? (2, Informative)

baldass_newbie (136609) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394304)

From the look of this thing you would need straight lines, plenty of clearance, and two rails running next to each transmission line.

Good point. In Philly as late as the 1960's there were portions of the water line that were running through hollowed out tree trunks. Seriously.
I can't see this being of any use in a town like Philly. Read this story about a recent underground explosion [kyw1060.com] and you'll know what I mean.

Re:Will this work in the real world? (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394450)

In Philly as late as the 1960's there were portions of the water line that were running through hollowed out tree trunks. Seriously.

Not really that shocking, nor confined to Philly. NYC had wooden piping as late as the early 90s. Possibly even today.

-b.

Re:Will this work in the real world? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17395312)

Perhaps it would be shocking to find that your comment did nothing to make me like you more or hate you less.

Re:Will this work in the real world? (0, Offtopic)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17395808)

Perhaps it would be shocking to find that your comment did nothing to make me like you more or hate you less.


Who are "you" and why are you hiding behind an Anon. Coward profile? Oh wait, you're a troll. Go back under your bridge, boy. Some of us want to be able to eat without viewing your ugly mug.


-b.

Re:Will this work in the real world? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17404914)

yowch, burn! you got hitt witt OffTopic.

Re:Will this work in the real world? (1)

neimon (713907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17402146)

You don't wanna clean nothin' in Philly. That dirt, it's STRUCTURAL.

Re:Will this work in the real world? (2, Informative)

gaber1187 (681071) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394524)

You're right, the real world is a messy place--lots of underground transmission lines are just plopped down into a big tray and are not very accessible to just about any method that would inspect the quality of the insulation. However, with very little effort utilities can make lines more amenable to inspecting lines with this robot.


But being able to deal with pretty difficult situations is a problem for robotics, and we like tough robotics problems, so its definitely doable. I'm in the same research lab working for Prof. Mamishev as these guys, and they are definitely thinking about lots of ways to deal with the chaotic wiring problem. Things like the little spiders of Minority Report would be ideal for getting into tough spots, but who knows, maybe we'll see that sooner rather than later... stay tuned...

One guy from our lab who did a bunch of work on this is also starting his own company [rybots.com] based on some walking robots... not sure if the company is started yet--they kind of look like spiders...

Re:Will this work in the real world? (4, Interesting)

jcurran (307641) | more than 7 years ago | (#17395116)

I've seen underground power cables in the Boston area, and at least in the ones I saw, there was no tray, just lots of serious support ironwork. Additionallly, there was no nice clean lit walkway on the side as in the video. The problem that I see is that the places that its hardest to visually inspect are just the circumstances that these robots would be handiest, and that's exactly the circumstances that they'll have the most problems navigating.

Re:Will this work in the real world? (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 7 years ago | (#17401294)


I've seen underground power cables in the Boston area, and at least in the ones I saw, there was no tray, just lots of serious support ironwork. Additionallly, there was no nice clean lit walkway on the side as in the video. The problem that I see is that the places that its hardest to visually inspect are just the circumstances that these robots would be handiest, and that's exactly the circumstances that they'll have the most problems navigating.


True. And that (Boston) probably isn't the worst case. Our utilities install cable either direct buried or in conduit. It isn't laid out neatly in a tray.


The robot will work quite well in the University of Washington, where the utilities are installed in these beautiful, clean utility tunnels (your education tax dollars at work), but they (the robot developers) would have been better off working on a technology like embedding sensing fiber optics into the cables themselves. Or something like a sensing cable that could be strung into a conduit with the power cables. Either could be interrogated with OTDR equipment to locate anomalies.

Horror (4, Funny)

SinGunner (911891) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394202)

This sounds like a bad horror-movie plot. Next they'll start coming up from the ground in some old people's home and killing everyone, and then the police get called in to investigate, but they just can't tell what the hell happened. Then more isolated incidents start to occur which leads the main character and his expendable co-stars into the dark abandoned subway tunnels to search for this menace from the underneath!

The final scene involves a huge explosion or EMP burst that destroys all the robots but also leaves everyone in the sewer in complete darkness. Cut, print, that's a wrap. Where's my money?

Re:Horror (2, Funny)

plover (150551) | more than 7 years ago | (#17395954)

Next they'll start coming up from the ground in some old people's home and killing everyone

Nah, they won't kill old people, they'll just eat their medicine for fuel. Besides, I've got my life insurance policy from Old Glory Insurance so I feel safe, even though the robots may strike at any time.

Old Glory Insurance. [google.com] For when the metal ones decide to come for you - and they will.

Re:Horror (1)

SinGunner (911891) | more than 7 years ago | (#17396350)

I hear that when they grab you with those metal claws, you can't break free, because they're made of metal, and robots are strong.

Robots good at checking pipes (4, Informative)

Realistic_Dragon (655151) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394220)

The SMART PIG [wikipedia.org] is used to check on gas pipes. It saves a fortune on using the old, dumb pigs that they used to have to force through the pipes to inspect/clean them prior to the invention of Magnetic Flux Leakage techniques.

There is a pretty good SMART PIG display at the Manchester Sci/Tech museum (free) with an actual 80's vintage inspection unit donated by British Gas.

at least someone's checking them (1)

macadamia_harold (947445) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394266)

Making use of infrared thermal analysis and acoustic partial discharge analysis, the robot will be checking mile after mile of cable while crawling his way in the tubes.

Well, since they're checking the tubes, maybe they can find the internet that Ted Stevens' staff sent him last Friday. It's all tangled up in there.

Re:at least someone's checking them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17394734)

acoustic partial discharge analysis

I take this to mean the robots fart and then listen for echoes. Much like me in a bar while it empties rapidly. At New Years, I plan to selectively make ceiling balloons pop, in time to Auld Lang Syne. Live in fear and awe, robots. We metahumans have powers far beyond your puny metal capabilities.

Sounds good (1)

Swimport (1034164) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394278)

Sounds like a good idea. But I bet theyll lose a lot of robots, especially in old cities like boston/new york.

Great (0, Offtopic)

aldo.gs (985038) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394280)

"...while crawling his way in the tubes."
Now we will have to wait more time for our internets to arrive.

Computerized Heuristic Underground Detectors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17394288)

C.H.U.D.

Finally! (2, Funny)

sharkey (16670) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394302)

We desperately NEED something to keep the tubes clear. Sometimes it takes a whole WEEK for an Internet to get to me!

The Cousins of the Sewer Robots (3, Interesting)

MightyMait (787428) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394338)

Here in Santa Cruz, we're currently using robots to inspect our sewers. My buddy made a TV show (on Community TV--like Public Access) of the raw footage from the sewer robot set to soothing music. Must-see TV!!

Re:The Cousins of the Sewer Robots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17394772)

In Mexico City they do the same thing except instead of using robots they use Mexicans [funreports.com].

Re:The Cousins of the Sewer Robots (1)

RedOregon (161027) | more than 7 years ago | (#17397178)

Seems to me that robots have been crawling the Alaskan oil pipelines for decades, too...?

Deus Ex (1)

imunfair (877689) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394342)

Reminds me of the repair spiders in Deus Ex. Now all we have to do is equip them with weapons and they can hunt sneaky terrists. Funny how all the classic conspiracy theories/times leading up to bad things in history are mirrored in our current societal situation. Makes you wonder if the signs always foreshadow the bad things, or if there are times where the crisis was averted and history just doesn't remember them.

Re:Deus Ex (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17395618)

Hmm. I don't know. I was thinking more of Floyd the Droid [zzap64.co.uk] for the Commodore 64. Now if they could just make the robots say "BOO!" to scare off sewer rats and the occasional masked fugitive from justice..

Robots in Tubes? (2, Funny)

TooFarGone (841076) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394400)

If these robots can go into tubes, maybe when the internets are clogged they can help us out?

Re:Robots in Tubes? (2, Funny)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394416)

Well, of course! This is Senator Ted Stevens' solution to the quake damage in East Asia!

The submitter must have forgotten to include that bit......

Only the beginning (3, Funny)

SmlFreshwaterBuffalo (608664) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394442)

Great, how long before they start using similar robots to check your prostate?

(Ha! You thought this was going to be another reference to The Matrix/Terminator, didn't you?)

Re:Only the beginning (1)

CrackerJackz (152930) | more than 7 years ago | (#17397796)

How about a Total Recall one?

"Don't worry; it's self guiding. Just shove real hard. When it crunches, you're there."

  (and yes I know the movie was dealing with the other end of the human anatomy)

Re:Only the beginning (1)

butterwise (862336) | more than 7 years ago | (#17399090)

how long before they start using similar robots to check your prostate?
You mean they don't? Guess I better find a new doctor...

Animals in the sewers (1)

SoundGuyNoise (864550) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394464)

Yeah, those nanites are cute when they come home from the County Fair in a little static-free bag. Then they get bigger and you flush them down the toilet.

Next thing you know, sewers are crawling with Hunter-Killers.

You can do it at home too (2, Insightful)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394488)

Last year, my webpage describing how I did something similar (but spectacularly cheaper with the commensurate drop in ability) using some off the shelf electronics and an R/C toy was featured here on Slashdot, my first slashdotting!

http://hallert.net/misc/tankcam/tankcam.html [hallert.net]

There are other crawlspaces out there, get under your houses and make your own robots do your bidding!

What'd be really neat... (3, Insightful)

fussili (720463) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394494)

is if they leeched power from the cables at open nodes in the system and just roamed on a set path at all times.

Autonomous little service droids, keeping everything working - now that's the future.

Re:What'd be really neat...not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17395084)

Ever seen Minority Report and that little robotic spiders were unleashed in an apartment building? The spiders interrupted various activities of the people in the building (of which a few should be unnecessary to directly name) an example being people taking a bath. I suppose you would consider that *neat*. I good sir, do not, that's an invasion of privacy.

Re:What'd be really neat... (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 7 years ago | (#17395228)

To build on your idea, instead of a set path, they should roam intelligently based on the history of the utility network. Areas that have required more maintenence in the past should be passed over/inspected more often then those areas which have required less maintenence.

Too bad they can't train rats.. (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 7 years ago | (#17394586)

Too bad they can't train rats to do this. They're ubiquitous in cities, they run off readily available biomass fuel, and they automaticly replace themselves when they wear out. Of course, I'm being facetious. Really, it would be nice if the robots could be programmed to kill rats too.

Robots, tubes ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17394818)

"Robots will crawl tubes in a short while to investigate power cables running in the tubes to make sure they are still undamaged or in need for a repair."

So that's why my connection is so slow ... the tubes are clogged with wires!

equal opportunity! (1)

swell (195815) | more than 7 years ago | (#17395344)

.

"checking mile after mile of cable while crawling his way in the tubes."
Why does it have to be a male robot?

Don't anthropomorphize robots--they hate it when you do that.

Re:equal opportunity! (1)

Provocateur (133110) | more than 7 years ago | (#17395824)

checking mile after mile of cable while crawling his way in the tubes.

You missed the more important part. Does he even *know* that he was volunteered for this task? Or he was simply not at that meeting?

Oddly enough, today's post was brought to you by the captchka 'drills'. Those sentinels!

This will never fly! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17395622)

The Electrician's Union will never let this machine see the light of day...

American Unions! Keeping Americans Employed! Hoora!

Ah, the classics... (1)

Acheron (2182) | more than 7 years ago | (#17395634)

It's that time again!

As many of you know, each year the Internet must be shut down for 24 hours in order to allow us to clean it. The cleaning process, which eliminates dead email, inactive ftp and www sites, and empty USENET groups, allows for a better working and faster Internet tubes.

This year the cleaning process will take place from 12:01 a.m. GMT on April 1 until 12:01 a.m. GMT on April 2 (the time least likely to interfere with ongoing work). During that 24-hour period, five powerful tube-cleaning robots situated around the world will search the tubes and delete any data that they find....

Gender specific robots. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17395800)

"... while crawling his way in the tubes." His? Bots with schlongs inspecting the bowels of civilization. Sounds like recreational proctology meets SimCity. I scan my own groceries. The Future is NOW!

Wait a sec.. (1)

Dersaidin (954402) | more than 7 years ago | (#17395904)

All these posts about Skynet, Robot overlords... etc. Yes they're posting for mod funny, but really, this is just another use for our current technology. Theres nothing new in the way of AI here. I for one welcome the new model of robot slaves...

That was surprising... (1)

Sowelu (713889) | more than 7 years ago | (#17396926)

I worked under Prof. Mamishev on a different robotics project a couple years back, but heard about this one in class. Took me by surprise to see this on Slashdot, but it always looked like an awesome project.

If I Could Write a Book About This..., (1)

berenixium (920883) | more than 7 years ago | (#17397452)

"They came for the children late at night, while parents slept blissfully unaware. They were never heard from again..."

First comes the Boomers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17397898)

Then come the Knight Sabers!!

mmmmm, babes in Hard Suits!
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