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Robots, space food share a roof at national science exhibition

Staff Reporter
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NEW FRONTIERS:Students visit the National Science Expo at Kanakakunnu Palace in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday.— Photo: S. Gopakumar
NEW FRONTIERS:Students visit the National Science Expo at Kanakakunnu Palace in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday.— Photo: S. Gopakumar

They were robots, all metallic, grey, and shiny, but their movements were hardly jerky. All three walked and glided with an eerie ease at the stall of the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, Bangalore (CAIR), at the National Science Expo. On Wednesday morning, schoolchildren huddled at this section, a star attraction of the ongoing exhibition held in connection with the 25th Kerala Science Congress at Kanakakunnu Palace.

For this year’s expo, eight laboratories under the aegis of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) have turned up, which, according to officials, is a first for the State’s science congress which usually sees the presence of only the Kochi-based Naval Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory (NPOL).

Crowds were fascinated by the robotic equipment and voice detection software, developed by CAIR for the armed forces.

“These are only prototypes. When in use, they are camouflaged to suit the needs of the armed forces. The voice recognition system ensures that only the voice of the owner of the radio transmitter is allowed to be communicated,” explained a CAIR representative, stressing that the devices augmented the security of troops at war zones.

The informative tour touched upon the advanced sonar devices prepared by NPOL, including materials indigenously developed for underwater applications. Models of products such as Sanjeevani, an acoustic life detector and Tarangini, an underwater depth and hardness indicator, were also on display.

Food for Siachen

The special foods designed by the Defence Food Research Laboratory, Mysore (DFRL), both for space journeys and for military personnel who have to operate in remote area for months were also showcased.

“Our focus is on preparing food that is light, highly nutritious and safe,” said the official, demonstrating the self-heating system of a Ready-to-Eat food packet, ideal for troops in places like Siachen, where temperature is perennially low. The stall that drew curious onlookers is owned by the Defence Research and Development Establishment, which focusses on “the detection, protection and de-contamination of possibly toxic biological and chemical agents.” According to the agents here, the focus of the centre’s research is slowly shifting from threats of biological agents in the form of Anthrax and H1N1 virus, to what could be termed ‘Agricultural Bioterrorism’ in future.

Targeting a nation’s food crop could be devastating and hence it is necessary to device shields against such threats, they say.

Achievements showcased

The achievements of the Indian Space Research Organisation are showcased at the expo. There are also stalls from various city-based organisations including Centre for Water Resources Development and Management, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, and TBGRI. The exhibition is open until February 3.

Kaavya Pradeep Kumar

Major labs, including eight from DRDO, have put up stalls at the science expo at Kanakakunnu Palace


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