Engineering is catching up to science fiction. Robots like people. Today, on Engineering Works!
Just about everybody remembers C3PO, one of Luke Skywalker’s robot sidekicks in Star Wars. Well, guess what? NASA is catching up, with a robot the space agency has dubbed R2, short for Robonaut 2. R2 doesn’t talk too well, but it looks a lot like the prissy movie robot. From the waist up, anyway. And it can use its hands to do almost anything a human astronaut can do. Far more than earlier humanoid robots.
R2 is the second generation of human-like robots NASA and General Motors have been working on for almost 10-years. So far, it’s just the top half of a human like figure, complete with a shiny helmet-head. With arms and five-fingered hands, just like humans. It’s not that strong: 20 pounds in each hand is about all it can handle, but it can move and manipulate that weight almost as well as you or I. The robot uses advanced control, sensor and vision technology. And it’s designed to use the same hand tools humans do.
NASA is working with GM to design and build the human-like robot. It’s aimed at duplicating the same dexterity astronauts have in their EVA suits. GM isn’t that interested in what R2 can do in space, but they would like to have robots that can work safely and efficiently around humans in manufacturing plants.
R2 is waving good-bye and we’re gone.
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