Road Trip at Home: At SRI International, miniaturization is key, including remote robots for disarming bombs, and tiny satellites.
MENLO PARK, Calif.--At SRI International, innovation has long been the goal. This is the place where the computer mouse was born, where the first Internet connection happened, and where the first wireless communications were initiated. It's also home to wall-climbing robots and much more.
So it should come as no surprise that it is a place where research in one area evolves into products in others.
Shown here is Taurus, a miniature remote-controlled robot designed to disarm bombs for the military and police departments. The technology behind it was originally developed for large-scale remote surgical robots. But over the years SRI's researchers have steadily reduced the size of that robotic technology, and today Taurus is just 14 inches shoulder to shoulder. Now it allows those who dismantel bombs to remotely, and without risk to themselves, take apart explosives.
SRI has been working with California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo on this miniaturized satellite. Known as CubeSat, the system is a 10-centimeter cube that can be launched into space at a fraction of the cost of a traditional satellite payload.
While there are small-scale satellite projects like this throughout the world, SRI says it can advance the field of such satellite operations due to its ability to work on communications networking systems, and to design CubeSat projects for partners as diverse as the U.S. Air Force, universities, and the National Science Foundation.
The CubeSat can be outfitted with all kinds of networking equipment and any number of sensors, so long as they can fit inside. SRI has even developed a tiny propulsion system that can allow CubeSats to control their movements in space. They can be launched in groups, and work in tandem, or be spread out over hundreds or thousands of miles in space to create wide mesh networks. And all for tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars, rather than millions.
This is the enclosure for CubeSat. The box, which was designed at CalPoly, can hold up to three of the tiny satellites. It is designed to protect the other equipment on a launch vehicle, which could potentially cost many millions of dollars, rather than the CubeSats themselves, which are relatively inexpensive.
This is SRI's Iris on the Move system. It is designed to scan people's irises to match them against a database of known persons who, for example, work in a secure building or who travel through an airport. Irises are said to provide better identity matching than fingerprints. The system can handle about 30 people a minute, so long as each person is already in the database.