Androids get hot and sweaty for science

2 minute read

Perspiring robots may help us cope with climate change.

Regular readers of the Back Page will have gleaned that your humble scribe is a bit of a robot fan.

In the past we’ve looked at things such as how looking “cute” is an important factor in robot design, and written about boffins designing automata with human-like skin that can “bruise” if you hit it.

So imagine our delight when we chanced upon a report outlining how researchers at Arizona State University  are working with a mechanical critter that “sweats profusely” and “breathes heavily” to cool itself down when the mercury starts to climb.

Designed by US firm Thermetrics, this heat-sensitive “thermal manikin” also has internal organs modelled on human organs which can respond to heat stress in similar ways. Going by the moniker ANDI, the robot can even start shivering if things get too cold.

But by now you are probably asking yourself if there is actually a good reason to be developing a clammy android to do stuff that H. sapiens have been managing to do just fine by themselves for countless millennia.

The answer to that question lies in the existential challenge of our time: climate change.

The pointy-heads from the bakingly hot state of Arizona say ANDI the android is the perfect device for measuring the effects extreme temperatures can have on the human body.

“You don’t want to run a lot of these [tests] with a real person,” Konrad Rykaczewski, an ASU mechanical engineering professor and the project’s principal investigator, told local newspaper the Arizona Republic (no relation). “It’s unethical and would be dangerous.”

What’s considered “peak heat” today might be the average day in 20 years, he said.

The android will not only be used to measure how human health is affected by extreme temperatures but also to help find new methods for heat mitigation, particularly in external environments.

It is also hoped that ANDI, thanks to its human-like internal organs, may be able to provide insights into heat-related deaths.

Which is certainly more noble than using sweaty robots to develop more effective antiperspirants, but we feel sure this will only be a matter of time.

Sending story tips to assists with thermoregulation.

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