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Real-Life RoboCop Makes Debut At FIU

Lisann Ramos

The Discovery Lab at Florida International University in Miami demonstrated a prototype for its own version of RoboCop on Wednesday morning. The robot is designed to allow disabled police and military personnel to serve as patrol officers.

They call the model TeleBot because it combines telepresence and robotics. This particular TeleBot’s name is Hutch.

Construction on Hutch began in 2012 when Dr. Jong-Hoon Kim, the director of Discovery Lab at FIU, received a donation from Lieutenant Jeremy Robins of the U.S. Navy.

"He said that one of his friends got injured during the Afghanistan War and after he come back, he couldn’t get a job. So he said, 'Why don’t you make this kind of robot to help disabled veterans and police officers?'' said Kim.

Dr.Kim led 16 undergrad students in building Hutch over the period a year and a half. They worked with a budget of only $20,000.

"With a very modest budget we've achieved a lot. Other universities would use at least a million dollars for different pieces. It would be $40,000 for a hand," said Mangai Prabakar, a manager for Discovery Lab.

Jaime Danow is a junior computer science major who does not have a right arm. His role in the project is developing a TeleBot model for someone missing upper extremities.

Danow has already developed a pressure sensor he compares to a video game. "It detects how long you’re pressing it. And with that I’m able to bend the elbow of the robot--being that I don’t have one," said Danow.

There’s still progress to be made on Hutch. The Discovery Lab wanted to have its first phase ready for demonstration by the time the film RoboCop was released in theaters today.

Although they have similar purposes, RoboCop and TeleBot operate differently.

"RoboCop is a cyborg and a human that has to be operated on. Emotions have to be incorporated. But TeleBot is remote and a controlled robot. You don’t need  surgery or anything to still keep it on duty," said Kim.

The Lab will continue to work on getting disabled veterans and police officers back into the workforce.