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Robotic lifeguard 'Emily' can save distressed swimmers

May 18, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Emily is a robotic lifeguard that can race across the ocean to help a swimmer in distress. This is no toy motor boat, but literally, a lifesaver.

Los Angeles County lifeguards are now testing the device to see how Emily can help them during the busy summer beach season.

"Emily is a new device that was created to help contact a conscious victim. So it's a very good tool if someone is still viable, they're not unconscious, you can use Emily to go out and get someone," said Capt. Remy T. Smith of the Los Angeles County Fire Department Lifeguard Division.

Emily could help save lives, but her name was inspired by a tragic event.

"Emily was named after a young woman that was tragically killed here in Malibu," said lifeguard Joe Everett.

Emily Rose Shane, 13, was walking near Pacific Coast Highway when she was struck by a car in 2010. To help deal with the loss, Emily's parents started a pay it forward campaign. At the time, Tony Mulligan was working on his new robotic lifeguard. His daughter and Emily were close friends. They joined the campaign and named their project "Emily."

"We knew Emily as a person who always wanted to help people. She always put other people in front of herself," said Mulligan. "And that's really what this robot is about, is going off and helping somebody. I think it's a great way to memorialize Emily."

With summer right around the corner, beaches are about to get busy. To prepare, the Los Angeles County lifeguards practice their rescue drills, using all of their equipment. For the first time, that includes Emily. I volunteered to be the first victim.

Happy to be in the hands of professionals, I was dropped off beyond the break. Emily was deployed from the shore and blasted through the surf to my rescue. Emily gave me, the victim, a chance to relax as I waited for lifeguards to arrive.

In rescues, time is of the essence, and Emily is able to stretch that time, which could save lives.

"It'd be nice to know that Emily's angel is right there helping you to make it back to shore safely," said Mulligan.


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