General Motors, NASA work together on R2 robot
With a human-inspired torso, head and hands, Robonaut2 can work in space or in a factory setting.
Fri, Feb 05, 2010 at 02:27 PM
A robotic hand. (Photo: iStockphoto)
Engineers have unveiled perhaps one of the biggest innovations in manufacturing since the invention of the assembly line. Msnbc.com reports that the “the world’s most dexterous robot,” the Robonaut2, was created in a joint project from NASA and General Motors researchers. The Robonaut2 or R2 was constructed to look like a human from the waist up to better fit into human work spaces. That means R2 can replace humans on the job or work alongside them.
This is not NASA’s first venture into robotics. The Robonaut was originally created by NASA and the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The R2 follows a similar design as the original Robonaut, which was created to mimic the work of a spacewalker without the pesky problem of putting a person in space. The R2 has a human torso, head, arms, hands and fingers. And in the future, the robot might have a leg to help it shimmy along in space with ease.
Industrial robots already work in factories, typically performing unwieldy assembly jobs. General Motors hopes that R2 will streamline the work of current robots. Msnbc.com reports that existing robots are “proverbial bulls in a china shop, thrashing about as they work without regard to anything or anyone nearby.” In contrast, the Robonaut2’s arms are smaller and lighter, and the robot has excellent sensors to stop and go at the lightest touch.
Alan Taub is General Motors’ vice president of research and development. As he told Msnbc.com, “When we install a robot (in a factory) we spend more money on cages and protection systems than we do on the robot.” The new dexterity of the R2 is intended to address this problem.
General Motors will improve on the robot so it eventually works without human intervention, while NASA plans to allow the robot to mimic an astronaut’s tasks. In fact, General Motors is using the technology towards a future car that can drive itself. (Just think: Cell phone users and texting drivers will never have to worry again!)
For further reading: NASA and GM developed the “Robonaut2”