Robonaut Centaur At NextFest 2006

NASA's Robonaut Centaur brings a new feature to its Robonaut telepresence robot - mobility. The new configuration is now being demonstrated at the NextFest technology exhibition (October 29-30 at the Javits Center, NYC).


(Robonaut Centaur at NextFest 2006)

Robonaut already had great dexterity in a human form (see Robonaut Performs Hubble Space Telescope Repair Tasks. It has more than 150 sensors per arm, including thermal, positional, tactile, force and torque instrumentation. In developing Robonaut with DARPA, NASA seeks to develop a robotic system that can function as an EVA (extravehicular activity) astronaut equivalent. Robonaut's human size and limb articulation make telepresence control intuitively easy.

The Robonaut Centaur configuration adds mobility for lunar roving tasks. The controller of the telepresence robot uses foot pedals to control the movement of the wheels.


(Robonaut Centaur and driver)

The controller wears a special mask to allow him to share Robonaut's point of view. As he moves his feet, Robonaut Centaur's wheels move the robot forward to an object. As he moves his arms, Robonaut moves its arms. As the controller moves his fingers to grasp the object he sees in his viewer, Robonaut flexes its fingers to grasp the object.

The insight that allows a complex robot like Robonaut to be controlled by natural human movement was achieved by science fiction writer Robert Heinlein. In his 1942 short story Waldo he described a way that a remote gripping arm could be controlled by an operator:

Waldo put his arms into the primary pair before him; all three pairs, including the secondary pair before the machine, came to life. Waldo flexed and extended his fingers gently; the two pairs of waldoes in the screen followed in exact, simultaneous parallelism.
(Read more about Waldo)

Look at more NextFest 2006 Devices, Stories and Pictures. Check out the Robonaut home page.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/29/2006)

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