Sandia Interior Robot (SIR)

Built in 1985, this robot was a prototype designed as a sentry at Sandia National Laboratories. Capable of operating by remote control or autonomously, the Sandia Interior Robot (SIR) was the only robot of its day able to navigate a building without a predetermined pathway or electric floor guides. It emerged from a program started ten years earlier to develop technologies for detecting interior intrusions for the Department of Energy’s nuclear safeguards efforts. SIR was the first of a fleet of vehicles Sandia researchers built as test beds for applying robotics to interior and exterior security.
SIR is a mobile platform with three wheels. At the time of its donation to the Smithsonian it carried a sonar (ultrasonic) sensor array—a circular arrangement of 30 Polaroid transceivers—and a Pulnix video camera for optical sensing. These sensors allow the robot to locate walls and other obstacles. It also carried, at various times, a magnetic compass to provide azimuth information, an odometer to record distance traveled and a steering motor for adjusting wheels for navigation.
Although SIR has its own on-board computer (a 6805 microprocessor in 1987), it was originally designed to communicate through a modem with a remote host computer (an IBM-compatible PC with 512KB RAM in 1987). Researchers at Sandia mainly used the robot to test new algorithms for room mapping, navigation and path following. They also used it to test other interior sensing and security systems.
SIR’s chief builders were J. J. Harrington and P. R. Klarer.
Currently not on view
date made
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
rubber (overall material)
glass (overall material)
overall: 28 3/4 in x 19 1/2 in x 26 in; 73.025 cm x 49.53 cm x 66.04 cm
ID Number
catalog number
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See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Science & Mathematics
Robots and Automatons
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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