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Robonaut2 - humanoid robot from NASA / GM
by IKE 04-Feb-2010 15:59

Robonaut is a joint-developed program between NASA and General Motors. The aim is to develop a humanoid robot that could be use alongside humans and perform similar tasks in a critical environment. In the image above is the second iteration, the Robonaut2 or R2. The main focus is the arms and hands, R2 can handle basic tools and can reach, lift and hold a weight of up to 9kg, more than most humans can.---

Engineers and scientists, work at Johnson Space Center in Houston and Oceaneering Space Systems also participate in the program. You can find more information and high-resolution images in this link:
http://www.nasa.gov/ and you can see a promotional video here: http://robonaut.jsc.nasa.gov/

The appearance of the Robonaut2 is slightly odd. It is not very well designed and although it stays well out of the uncanny valley its looks are much more like a toy action figure than a professional product. A robot doesn't need fake abs(!) nor a helmet like gold visor with a mesh grill (for breathing?!) or useless leds in its arms. It certainly looks better than the Robonaut 1 (middle image above) which looked like Jango Fett in a wheel chair with pajamas but Honda with the similarly Humanoid ASIMO (right image) had invested a lot of work in its design and the result is apparent.

The Robonaut program is impressive in its arms/hands dexterity and potential but it seems like someone had the idea of masquerade industrial robotic arms to look like a "Robocop Astronaut" in order to gain extra publicity. The Chevrolet Camaro wallpaper in the computer of an engineer doesn't help either to minimize the impression of a PR stunt.

Update - There may be some over-aggressive critique for R2's external design (not the first priority for this project) but Robonaut is a great step for the field and R2 is already in space, read more here: STS-133, Discovery's last mission

more videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/NASARobonaut

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