NASA and General Motors are working together to accelerate
development of the next generation of robots and related technologies
for use in the automotive and aerospace industries.
Engineers and scientists from NASA and GM worked together
through a Space Act Agreement at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in
Houston to build a new humanoid robot capable of working side by side
with people. Using leading edge control, sensor and vision technologies,
future robots could assist astronauts during hazardous space missions
and help GM build safer cars and plants.
The two organizations, with the help of engineers from
Oceaneering Space Systems of Houston, developed and built the next
iteration of Robonaut. Robonaut 2, or R2, is a faster, more dexterous
and more technologically advanced robot. This new generation robot can
use its hands to do work beyond the scope of prior humanoid machines. R2
can work safely alongside people, a necessity both on Earth and in
"This cutting-edge robotics technology holds great promise,
not only for NASA, but also for the nation," said Doug Cooke, associate
administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA
Headquarters in Washington. "I’m very excited about the new
opportunities for human and robotic exploration these versatile robots
provide across a wide range of applications."
"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 idea of using dexterous, human-like robots capable of
using their hands to do intricate work is not new to the aerospace
industry. The original Robonaut, a humanoid robot designed for space
travel, was built by the software, robotics and simulation division at
Johnson in a collaborative effort with the Defense Advanced Research
Project Agency 10 years ago. During the past decade, NASA gained
significant expertise in building robotic technologies for space
applications. These capabilities will help NASA launch a bold new era of
"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."
NASA and GM have a long, rich history of partnering on key
technologies, starting in the 1960s with the development of the
navigation systems for the Apollo missions. GM also played a vital role
in the development of the Lunar Rover Vehicle, the first vehicle to be
used on the moon.