WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A team of students and professors at Purdue University are working to make robots smarter and able to help in more situations, like natural disasters.

Aniket Bera, an associate professor, and the university’s IDEAS lab are researching to make AI, or artificial intelligence, and robots smarter.

Bera said the team focuses on social robotics and is trying to bring robots closer to humanity and solving tasks.

“We realized that most of these robots are fairly dumb, we tell them what to do,” Bera said. “And it does that right, with a high level of precision, because that’s what we’re going for.”

But the goal is to make them smarter and work alongside humans to complete more complex tasks, including after natural disasters, like the recent earthquake in Turkey.

“The biggest problem is that first responders by the time they reach the location, it’s very hard for them to look at, you know, rubble and where people are stuck,” Bera said. “Even walking on those places where an agile robot like this can quickly scan the environment. Look at heartrate sensing, look at like breathing monitors, you can check thermal sensors, and immediately, you know, maybe even give them medicines, maybe even give the quick treatment, while the first responders are on the way immediately go to that place.”

Working together with other technology, like drones, robots — like the robotic dog Bera is working with — can climb terrains that can be difficult for humans.

Other robots might be able to help in a home, especially with seniors, Bera said.

“They need help with, let’s say medication adherence, you know, chores around the house and the good things,” Bera said.

Those in the Purdue IDEAS lab are working to continue making robots more intelligent and able to understand things like human behavior and emotions.

Bera said as robots are able to understand more of the context and content from humans, the more situations they will be able to help in.

“Maybe in the future academics like they might be robots to teaching people bought in a mental health spectrum like an autism spectrum, how to identify emotions, how to respond appropriately to emotions,” Bera said.

The lab has deployed robots to help with various tasks across the world, Bera said, but it hasn’t been deployed to help with a natural disaster response or evacuation yet.