Researchers at Arizona State University are using a breathing, sweating humanoid robot to study the effects of extreme temperatures on the body, including, yes, butt sweating. But as strange as ANDI (and its background) may sound, the device could help experts better design products, methods and treatments to keep people safe as the planet continues its dangerous patterns of induced warming. by climate change.
Aside from these visible and sometimes socially embarrassing physical signs of heat stress, there’s actually a lot that experts still don’t know about humans’ biological responses to high temperatures. But researchers like Jenni Vanos, an associate professor in ASU’s School of Sustainability, can’t just immerse test subjects in dangerously extreme heat scenarios and observe the dire effects. “There are situations that we know of… where people are dying of heat and we still don’t fully understand what happened,” Vanos said in a recent statement. “ANDI can help us figure that out.”
[Related: 1 in 5 people are likely to live in dangerously hot climates by 2100.]
Funded by a Major Research Instrumentation Grant from the National Science Foundation and custom-built by Thermetrics, ASU’s ANDI is one of only two currently deployed at a research institute. It is also the first thermal dummy capable of being used outdoors, thanks to new internal cooling channels. Within this unique system, cold water is circulated throughout the ANDI’s “body” to keep its overall temperature low enough to withstand extreme heat, while sensors measure many variables that influence human perception of heat. , such as sunlight and air convection.
These perceptions are as varied as human health and body types, which ANDI can easily accommodate. “We can [enter] different BMI patterns, different age characteristics and different medical conditions,” said Ankit Joshi, ASU researcher and ANDI senior operator. Joshi offers as an example a diabetic patient, who has different thermal regulation abilities than a healthy person. “We can account for all of these changes with our custom models.”
ASU’s ANDI typically resides in the aptly named “Warm Room”, a chamber built to simulate heat exposure scenarios seen in regions around the world, which includes factors such as wind, solar radiation and temperatures up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In the hot room, the ANDI can accurately measure the mechanisms of human perspiration, such as changes in core and skin temperature.
Outside of the hot room, however, ANDI would have a walking companion. Over the summer, the research team will pair the dummy with the non-humanoid robot MaRTy, ASU’s biometeorological thermal robot. Both machines will roam around the (very hot) ASU campus, with MaRTy measuring the heat hitting a body, while ANDI can record how a body reacts to those temperatures.
[Related: Heat is the silent killer we should all be worried about.]
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to adapting to rising temperatures, and researchers are well aware of this. “We’re trying to approach this from a very holistic perspective, but there won’t be a silver bullet,” said Konrad Rykaczewski, associate professor in the School of Materials, Transportation, and Energy Engineering. ASU Energy and principal investigator of the study. . These different options include designing better cooling garments, or even specially designed exoskeleton backpacks to help cool those who wear them.
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