I'm sure our inevitable robot overlords will dish out sufficient payback 50 years from now, but today, it's better to send in machines than humans when the work required is sufficiently dangerous. When it comes to maintaining the Sydney Harbour Bridge, NSW's Roads and Maritime Services agrees and as such, have enlisted mechanical aid for the job, courtesy of the University of Technology Sydney.
As Nicole Chettle writes over at the ABC, right now the robot, developed with the UTS over half a decade, is being used to inspect the claustrophobic internals of the bridge. Normally this would be done by a person, but the confined space presents numerous safety issues:
"It's better to send a machine into a confined space than myself, because if something happened to me I would be blocked inside," [Bridge inspector Laurent Matkovic] said. ... "There's risk of asphyxiation. Air quality is an issue inside the arch," Mr Mann said. "Also emergency rescue is a real problem for us. These days we'd prefer to send robots in to do the dangerous jobs."
A passive bot is just the start — over the next three years, the RMS and UTS want to stick lasers and a vacuum cleaner on the thing. Not so it can zap tiny alien invaders and clean up the mess, but to destroy rust. Oh, and a paintbrush so it can do touch-ups.
Sounds good to me... except for the laser part. It's like they want them to take over.
Photo: University of Technology Sydney