Next time you find yourself struggling to get back to shore, your savior could be a curvy lifeguard named EMILY. Well, curved as in, y'know, like a buoy. EMILY has been patrolling Zuma Beach in Malibu this summer, and will safeguard 25 more by the end of the year. Here's how it works.
Right now, Zuma's EMILY is remote operated. Next year, however, EMILY's parent company Hydronalix plans to release a fully autonomous version of the 'bot that could speed out to struggling swimmers and offer them a boon in stormy waters.
EMILY can patrol a beach itself using sonar to scan for signs of trouble, though it can also be tossed from a beach, helicopter or boat and then piloted into place. At 28 miles-per-hour, the robot is several times faster than even the burliest lifeguard, and can give someone a flotation device while help comes or even just head back toward the shore with its passenger in tow.
So, will something like EMILY be replacing lifeguards as we know them? Not yet, according to Zuma Beach's Brandon Chapman, who has been testing EMILY. "Most lifeguards have spent their life in the ocean, learning how it acts. You can't give that experience to a computer," he said, adding, "But I don't have sonar. If I was out at sea, I would be pretty stoked if EMILY showed up."
Now all we need to do is toss some lasers onto EMILY for sharks and the like. Jaws would be a very different movie if it were remade today.