Humans doing difficult, repetitive tasks or those who need assistance with movement may soon get a helping hand – literally – thanks to robotic technology developed to serve astronauts in space.
Robonaut, a human-like robot designed by NASA and General Motors (GM), has been on the International Space Station since February 2011. Researchers have been testing the robot’s ability to perform certain tasks to free up human crew time and energy.
“The idea is to help astronauts with dull, dangerous, or dirty tasks,” said Ron Diftler, Ph.D., Robonaut project manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The ultimate goal is for the robot to perform tasks outside the station, saving the human crew the time and risk of some extravehicular activity, commonly known as spacewalks.
During its development, this astronaut helper sparked ideas for other uses of its technology. These additional uses weren’t apparent when Robonaut was first envisioned but came about through various partnerships and observations along the way.
One inspiration generated the X1, an exoskeleton that could help astronauts remain healthy in space. On Earth, it could restore limb motion for those affected by paraplegia or stroke. To create X1, NASA partnered with the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC), which had already developed a lower-extremity exoskeleton to assist those with paraplegia.
“We combined IHMC’s expertise in walking algorithms related to gait pathology with the NASA robotics team’s expertise in actuation and hardware and created a more compact, more capable exoskeleton,” said Christopher Beck, robotics engineer, Oceaneering Space Systems.
The Latest on: Robonaut
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The Latest on: Robonaut
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