Scientists have developed a robotic shoe that will allow people to walk through minefields unharmed. Landmine clearance agencies are showing interest in the device, the inventors say.
Landmines kill or wound tens of thousands every year, the majority of them non-combatants, according to mine research organisations.
"We presented and exhibited a fully functional prototype at the Asian Defence Technology 2006 Exhibition in February with good responses," the shoe's co-inventor, Associate Professor Konstantin Fuss of Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, told vnunet.com.
"Several companies were interested in the shoe, including a mine clearing agency in Australia, and the Homeland Security department in The Netherlands."
People wearing the robotic shoe would be able to step directly onto an anti-personnel mine, an action which would normally result in the loss of a limb or worse.
The six-legged shoes protect the wearer by lifting up a leg if it is over a mine so that the device is not triggered. The other five legs continue to support the wearer's weight.
Each of the shoe's six legs has a metal detector in its base. The detectors trigger solenoids which unlock the leg as soon as it is over a mine, allowing it to lift up freely when it touches the ground and put no pressure on the mine.
The leg is connected to the shoe with a hinge which locks again as soon as it is clear of the mine.
"The target groups for the shoe are mainly mine clearers involved in humanitarian clearance, military personnel in charge of peace-keeping initiatives and special command operations," the inventors said.
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