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  (Source: NASA)
Robot dubbed R2 can use hands for things previous bots couldn't

Robots are being developed around the world for use in a myriad of tasks. People have dreamed of robots that will help take care of their homes and work alongside humans for decades and as technology evolves, we are coming closer to that reality.

Robots using technology that was once pure fiction are now actually being developed. Honda developed a small humanoid robot in 2009 called Asimo that was controlled by the thoughts of the human sitting in the control chair. The system used electroencephalography technology to measure electrical potential on the scalp of the operator with tech that was able to measure blood flow in the brain. Together with other tech, the user could control the robot to some extent by thought alone.

NASA is also very interested in robots for space exploration that are capable working in space side by side with human astronauts. The project is continuing despite the fact that Obama's 2011 budget killed hope of a manned mission to the moon.

GM and NASA worked together in the 1960's on the first moon flights. GM played a pivotal role in creating the iconic Lunar Rover Vehicle that the first lunar missions used for transportation. GM and NASA are now working together on the next generation of robots for space exploration and other uses here on Earth where risks to humans are too great. GM and NASA are working together through the Space Act Agreement at the Johnson Space Center in Houston to build a humanoid robot called Robonaut 2 or R2. R2 is a faster and more dexterous version of the original Robonaut NASA built in the past. R2 is capable of using its hands to perform tasks beyond what previous humanoid robots were capable of doing.

NASA's Doug Cooke said, "This cutting-edge robotics technology holds great promise, not only for NASA, but also for the nation. I'm very excited about the new opportunities for human and robotic exploration these versatile robots provide across a wide range of applications."

GM is looking at the R2 project as a way to develop new technology that will allow it to make safer cars and production facilities in the future. The technology being developed in the R2 project uses advanced controls, sensors, and safety systems that can be adapted for vehicles and other needs.

"For GM, this is about safer cars and safer plants," said Alan Taub, GM's vice president for global research and development. "When it comes to future vehicles, the advancements in controls, sensors and vision technology can be used to develop advanced vehicle safety systems. The partnership's vision is to explore advanced robots working together in harmony with people, building better, higher quality vehicles in a safer, more competitive manufacturing environment."

The original Robonaut was built by NASA and designed for space travel as part of a collaborative effort with DARPA ten years ago. NASA has gained significant expertise in robotics and is using what it has learned in the R2 project in the hopes of creating a new era of space exploration.

"Our challenge today is to build machines that can help humans work and explore in space," said Mike Coats, Johnson's center director. "Working side by side with humans, or going where the risks are too great for people, machines like Robonaut will expand our capability for construction and discovery."

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By JediJeb on 2/4/2010 1:56:41 PM , Rating: 2
If it hasn't already been done, then NASA should make the entire specs for things like the SaturnV engines and such available to companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, ect to give them a boost in developing the next generation of rocket technology. It probably is already public, but if not they need to make it so.

It just seems odd that 50 years ago we could design vehicles capable of reaching orbit and even making it to the moon using sliderules and hand drafting techniques and yet it is difficult for these private companies to do it now with autocad, cadcam machines, and computers the early NASA engineers could only dream of. Their budget may be smaller but the advancement in technology in the past 50 years should make up for some of that. If these private companies do get the billion dollar contracts to resupply the ISS I believe they will reach that goal quickly and go beyond faster than most of us imagine they will.

By 3minence on 2/4/2010 2:28:23 PM , Rating: 1
Apples and Oranges. The mission of Apollo was to get to the moon, plant the flag, then come home. If that was all we were doing this time it would be done already. But it's not. NASA was working toward going to the moon and staying. That is a completely different creature. The Constellation program consisted of a smaller rocket to carry humans to LEO only, and a much larger rocket to carry heavy loads, or travel to the moon.

We are way passed the "plant the flag stage".

As for SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, I really wouldn't expect to see them as players for carrying astronauts. The players will be Boeing, Lockhead Martin, and the other "big guys" who build the larger rockets like Delta and Atlas. The small guys are innovative, but the big guys got the experience, money, and resources.

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