According to StarTribune, a Wi-Fi corporation, called Digi International Incorporated is working with NASA to develop the sensory feedback mechanisms for a brand new robot.
Robonaut, as the robot is creatively named, is a humanoid robot, constructed at the NASA Johnson Space Center. NASA’s website indicates one of the machine’s abilities to lie in “dexterous manipulation.” Without precise finger-tip movements, the robot would be completely unable to perform some of the most basic of tasks.
The robot had already been dispatched on other missions, before-hand; for example, the mechanical worker was tasked with general maintenance on the International Space Station (ISS), where he was responsible for analyzing air flow and polishing railings, as part of the STS-133 mission.
However, in a massive development being undertaken by NASA engineers, the robot will receive its very first set of legs. The previous iteration of robot was affixed to a pedestal, and hooked up to the station, via wires, precluding its movement entirely. The following footage indicates the previous generation, legless version of Robonaut. Please be advised, the footage does contain crazy, low-grav. hair.
The NASA-controlled robot will acquire Digi International’s processor chip to facilitate operation of the device’s five cameras, whilst a new Wi-Fi board will allow it to respond to their commands. The hope is that these extra components, alongside a set of limbs, will enable Robonaut to move around ISS; It is believed Robonaut’s efforts will be coordinated via NASA Mission Control Center, and rarely the crew of the space station.
Unfortunately, for Digi International, the purchase is not going to allow them all to retire as multi-millionaires, just yet; each of the chips (totaling 100) sold for a meager $200. However, according to StarTribune, Digi’s Chief Technology Officer, Joel Young, revealed just how important this sale was for his organization, stating “It’s a great proof point to show what our technology can do.” And, let’s face it, working alongside NASA developing robotic humanoids is a significant deal.
The robot will be assigned to a series of monotonous tasks, typically revolving around clean-up operations and maintenance, including monitoring air circulation. Robonaut will monitor oxygen levels indirectly by checking the exhaust of oxygen from air vents.
Incredibly, scientists are already considering using Robonaut on space runs. This had Digi International staff worried over whether the chips could withstand the highly variable, and often harsh, environments of space. The corporation analyzed the chips to ensure they remained viable at differing temperatures and humidity levels, as well as its ability to withstand the force of radiation and lift-off. Thankfully, the board managed to pass on all accounts.
This could have enormous implications for the manner in which space expeditions are conducted, improving the safety for human astronauts, whilst also saving the operatives time to perform other, important scientific experiments. Robonaut may also assist in preparing work sites, as well as working alongside its human counterparts.
Intriguingly, a completely separate type of mobile robot is being developed around the Robonaut specification. Currently, in the deserts of Arizona, NASA is evaluating the use of Centaur 2, which is a four-wheeled rover that accommodates a humanoid similar to the current generation Robonaut, which could eventually play an integral part in space exploration missions.
With the new Digi International processor and Wi-Fi chips being integrated into NASA’s new line-up of Robonaut humanoids, it looks like we are finally going to see proper robots in space. Let’s just hope they don’t call any of them Ash.
By: James Fenner