By Evan Ackerman
The UCSD robot is called FFR for "firefighting robot," although FLR for "firelocating robot" might be more technically correct. The robot uses a stereo camera and a thermal camera to generate 3D pointclouds with thermal overlays, allowing the robot to autonomously generate maps showing hot spots and humans even through smoke. The sensor hardware on board the robots doesn't look especially complex, meaning that the 'bots might ultimately become inexpensive (and replaceable) enough to deploy in swarms. So, instead of running around burning buildings looking for people, firefighters can just deploy a bunch of robots first, and rapidly build up a thermal map telling them where to go.
Incidentally, that nifty stair climbing system is something we first wrote about back in 2009, and it's great to see that it's been turned into something useful. Now, if they'd just give iFling some water balloons, it really could be a firefighting robot.