Gizmodo of the Day

Meet EMILY, the robot life guard

CNN Money

Emily — whose name is an acronym for Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard — is a four-foot-long robotic buoy capable of racing through rough surf at 24 miles per hour. Emily’s creators estimate that the robot can rescue distressed swimmers twelve times as fast as human lifeguards.

Serial entrepreneur and engineer Tony Mulligan, 47 — Emily’s inventor — has a history of tinkering with remotely piloted vehicles. His last company, Advanced Ceramics Research, developed unmanned aircraft for government agencies. But it wasn’t until Mulligan created a small robotic boat in October 2009 to help the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) monitor marine mammals, and saw how effortlessly it navigated choppy waters, that the idea for Emily was born.

In June 2009, Mulligan sold Advanced Ceramics Research to British Aerospace Electronic Systems for $14.7 million. He promptly funneled $250,000 of that into the development of his red, waterproof, canvas-covered robot.

The final result is a remote-controlled contraption powered by a tiny electric pump called an impeller, which squirts a forceful stream of water, much like the propulsion system on a Jet Ski. Manufactured by Mulligan’s startup, a seven-employee company called Hydronalix in Sahuarita, Ariz., Emily can run up to 80 miles on a single battery charge. The device’s foam core is buoyant enough to support up to five people, who cling to Emily’s ropes until human aid arrives.

That’s a huge help, considering that strong riptides can yank multiple swimmers out to sea at once. Under such conditions, it can take lifeguards more than half an hour to complete a single rescue mission.

To distinguish between children roughhousing and swimmers struggling, the latest version boasts a microphone and speaker acoustics system, enabling lifeguards to warn beachgoers of danger zones or calm panicked swimmers. And Mulligan says it won’t be long before Emily will be able to scan ocean depths for human bodies or ship wrecks using hyperspectral imaging technology, which measures underwater rays of visible light to distinguish between different materials.

Emily’s seafaring powers are slowly winning over investors. To date, the NOAA, the University of Arizona and the U.S. Navy have invested a total of $250,000 in the project. Mulligan expects sales of Emily to increase the company’s revenue, currently $250,000, five-fold over the next year.

CNN Money

WHOA, it’s interesting to see this kind of technology being developed.

does this mean real lifeguards will be replaced with robots?

or will these robots assist lifeguards in saving human lives?