Applied Technotopia

We scan the digital environment to examine the leading trends in emerging technology today to know more about future.

We have added a few indices around the site. Though we look to the future, we need to keep an eye on the present as well:

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Posts tagged "robonaut"

Robonaut gets legs next year!

NASA engineers are developing climbing legs for the International Space Station’s robotic crew member Robonaut 2 (R2), marking another milestone in space humanoid robotics. (via

Waiting to see what R2 has to say about it:

Here is a view of them being tested:

Wow! A look at the future Russian Robonaut.

"At a space industry conference last week, Russian officials announced that their version of Robonaut, the SAR-400, is currently undergoing testing at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre Research Institute, and will be making its way to the International Space Station (ISS) within just a few years." (via IEEE Spectrum)

A look at efforts to help train Robonaut.


NASA Wants You to Train Its Space Robot

Astronauts on board the International Space Station don’t have a lot of free time, which means the last thing they want to do is expend energy on mundane chores like vacuuming. Enter Robonaut 2, the first humanoid robot in space that takes on these everyday tasks.

R2, which has been on the ISS since 2011, has a mission: clean handrails, vacuum air filters and take air-flow measurements. The problem is it doesn’t yet have the ability to learn and complete the work. So NASA is looking for someone to teach the bot. The Robonaut Challenge calls on contestants to write algorithms that allow R2 to interact with a training dashboard the space agency built.

“R2 is meant to contribute back to the ISS by freeing the astronauts up to do more scientific research and the more difficult tasks,” Allison Thackston of the Robonaut team tells Mashable via email. “We measure our cost savings in crew hours saved, which translates into more important scientific and engineering research being done.”

Competitors will start by writing code that enables R2 to “see” and recognize the state and location of LED-illuminated buttons and switches on the dashboard. Building on that successful algorithm, contestants will write control software that manipulates the objects that Robonaut can recognize and locate.

The contest started on Monday morning and will run for three weeks. However, the Robonaut team says it won’t take long for solutions to start trickling in.

“While there is no requirement for contestants to submit their solutions early, we usually begin seeing the first solutions within a week of launch,” says Robonaut’s Julia Badger.

NASA may eventually use the Robonaut 2 to prepare or clean up work sites for astronauts outside the ISS. However, as sophisticated as the technology is, R2 won’t likely replace humans in space.

“Robotics technology has a long way to go,” says Badger. “But having a robotic assistant is a great way to push that technology while still having the benefit of human interaction and supervisory control.”

NASA is hosting its Robonaut Challenge with TopCoder, the world’s largest open platform for the computer science community.

(via niceskynewworld)

Robonaut is awsome. And quite willing to answer questions via twitter, see a conversation I had with him last year September - Robonaut 2 Answers Some Questions


Robonaut Designed to Work Safely With Humans, Exercise Limited Autonomy

…the robot uses an impedance controller, which can adjust the stiffness of the arms. This means the arms have limited torque and won’t cause damage to objects—or the crew.

“We went through very rigorous safety evaluations before we can send this robot to the space station,” Diftler told us. “So that you would feel very comfortable shaking hands with it.” In fact, we did shake hands with the robot—and we still have our fingers to type this story!

Diftler also told us about some of Robonaut’s jobs at the ISS. He said the robot is, among other things, assisting the crew with air flow measurements. Before they had the robot, the astronauts had to monitor air flow themselves. Now Robonaut just grabs an air flow meter and performs the measurements, not only collecting data more frequently than before but also freeing the crew from a boring task.

The idea is that Robonaut will increasingly take on other jobs, helping the crew with experiments and maintenance. For that, the Robonaut team designed the robot with varying levels of autonomy, Diftler said.

In autonomous mode, the robot can perform tasks that require little or no supervision. For tasks that require a crew member to monitor or assist the robot, a “supervised autonomy” mode is used. Finally, there are more complex situations when remote operation is the best option, and in those cases an operator (aboard the ISS or on Earth) can use teleoperation gear to fully control the robot.

(via Video: How Robonaut’s Compliant Arms Work - IEEE Spectrum)


Human vs. Robotic Space Exploration - Yesterday I spent all day in SpaceX’ Mission Control room participating in ground communication checkouts for the upcoming flight of Dragon to the International Space Station. While we were working, we had a live video feed from the ISS on the wall showing Robonaut floating around the station. This got me thinking - will the future of space exploration be dominated by tele-presence robotics rather than flesh and bone astronauts?

The long lag-time for radio communications across the solar system puts a limit on the ability to control robots from Earth in real time; however, parking those fragile humans in orbit and letting them control more expendable robots on the surface of a new planet is seen by many as the safer-better-way of space exploration. Wired magazine has a good article summarizing both sides of the debate:

Teleoperation has been considered in the past for space exploration. During the Apollo era, the technology was not well developed but in the last decade, it has taken off. On Earth, surgeons in Baltimore now perform operations in Indonesia while officers in Nevada covertly spy on nuclear sites in Iran.

Lester envisions a future where astronauts camp out on Mars’ moons Phobos and Deimos and order remote-controlled robots to drive long distances over the planet’s surface, set up geologic instruments, and collect samples for analysis.