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Emergency Informatics and the Survivor Buddy Project

Speaker  Robin Murphy

Affiliation  Dept of CS & Engineering, Texas A&M University

Host  Stewart Tansley

Duration  00:50:42

Date recorded  19 February 2009

This talk will introduce the field of emergency informatics: the real-time collection, processing, distribution, and visualization of information for prevention, preparedness, response and recovery from disasters. One aspect of emergency informatics is the use of robots for search and rescue. While to date rescue robots have not encountered a survivor, we have been working since 2002 with medical responders to determine the informatics needs of remote victim management. One resulting research direction is the Survivor Buddy, a human-robot interaction project between Texas A&M, Stanford, and the University of South Florida. The Survivor Buddy is motivated by the delay of 4-10 hours before rescue teams can physically reach a survivor found deep in rubble; if a robot finds a survivor, the person will be dependent on the robot as a link to the outside world for a long period of time. Our prior work suggests that a survivor will treat the robot as a social medium, that is, the robot will be both a medium to the "outside" world and a local, independent entity devoted to the victim (e.g., a buddy). One function of the medium is to provide two-way audio communication between the survivor and the emergency response personnel, but more interesting capabilities emerge by fully exploiting web applications. For example, responders could play therapeutic music with a beat designed to regulate heartbeats or breathing. Under funding from Microsoft, we are building a web-enabled robot with a LCD screen that can permit the survivor to videoconference with responders (or family), watch live TV, movies, or listen to music. The web-enabled, multi-media Survivor Buddy will allow i) the survivor to take some control over the situation and find a soothing activity while waiting for extrication and ii) responders to support and influence the state of mind of the victim.

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