Jan 252013

The Evolution of NASA’s other Big-Deal Robot: Robonaut2

(as perchanced across by a globetrotting French guy)
So, Anthrobotic covered Robonaut last August – wondering why the NASA/General Motors collaborative space android had been up to a whole lot of nothing for 18 months on the ISS – and then just a few weeks thereafter, celebrated its activation and the beginning of a long-awaited training regimen. The Robonaut team has now publicly come to life, and while the official Robonaut site is well-neglected, when active the project pumps out a good Facebook stream and Twitter feed.

Robonaut Mobility

At the moment, Robonaut is a space torso bolted to the floor. But the team has experimented with a number of mobility options, and in marketing the program and educating the public, released lot of great Robonaut 1 & 2 imagery.
Examples below, left to right:

Post-Industrial CentaurZero-G Creepy QuadrupedWhat Must be a Joke Segway, and the superbly dorky fantasy, Curiosity/Robonaut Lovechild.

Above images courtesy of author’s U.S. federal taxes.

Those are all fun and great and probably good science, too – but about a week ago Anthrobotic (and assuredly others) discovered a new & interesting Robonaut photo. Now, unless someone with more robot street cred knows otherwise, a random world-traveling French guy’s December visit to Houston, TX resulted in what might be the first publicly circulating image of Robonaut with proper legs attached:

Hit the image for the full Les Passengers NASA Johnson Space Center Gallery.

Antranik Zekian, author of the Les Passengers travelogue blogue, snapped this photo during a visit to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in December, and upon request he graciously permitted Anthrobotic to share his image and spread the word – and the word is: while their function & capability remain unclear, Robonaut is getting legs.
Okay, that’s a phrase.

But what’s up here? Are these legs for earth-norm or zero-g only? Can they articulate into an EVA crabwalk pose? Are they teleoperable? Clearly someone stateside needs to head to NASA Johnson and do some investigating.

By the way, Anthrobotic can be contracted for that.
Hit me up.

Robonaut is as Robonaut Does

The pessimist might argue that the Robonaut program is more flash than substance, that the machine is gimmicky, and only powers up every few weeks to learn how to uselessly push buttons and twist knobs. The pessimist should, however, be shooshed. NASA puts robots into space – ROBOTS INTO SPACE. Robonaut is actually a very decent research platform, and in fact secondary and tertiary offshoots of Robonaut tech are already in play. In a video interview from earlier this month, project lead Dr. Ron Diftler detailed upcoming plans, and they’re exciting, ambitious, and practical.

The team behind the first space android deserves some props:
#1. In a world (and space station) full of artifacts and spaces designed for human beings, developing a tele-operable humanoid platform is quite practical; and #2. NASA needs to market itself, and a shiny sexy android does that very well.

Godspeed space robot, and good luck with the legs.

Robonaut & NASA

Les Passengers

BREAKING NEWS: Curiosity finds Refined Metal on Mars!
Robonaut 2: Alive and Suddenly Super Busy
Remember NASA’s other Robot? Dear Robonaut 2, What is it that YOU do?
Curiosity about Curiosity, Part 2 – Approach: Only 5 Million Kilometers to Mars (3 Days!)
Robonaut 2 Now in Space – This Guy Says Hype – One Disagrees…


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