While it doesn't speak hundreds of alien languages and lacks the attitude of C3PO, R2 or Robonaut2 is one of the best friends today's astronauts will ever have in space.
To date, R2 is the most dexterous robot in the world. Designed by General Motors and NASA, the human-like R2 will work side by side with people, skillfully operating many hand tools with dexterity that exceeds that of a suited astronaut. R2 can go where the risks are too great for people, vastly enhancing NASA's ability for construction and discovery. For example, tasks such as changing out an air filter on the International Space Station (ISS) can be performed without modifications to the existing design.
R2 will launch to the ISS on space shuttle Discovery to become the first dexterous humanoid robot in space, and the first US-built robot at the space station. Initially, R2 will be deployed on a fixed pedestal inside the ISS. Upgrades will allow R2 to venture into space, and legs and wheels will enable R2 to explore Lunar and Martian terrain.
R2 includes a far deeper and wider range of sensing than previous bots. In fact, R2 is literally stuffed with technology. Included are series elastic joints, extended finger and thumb travel, miniaturized 6-axis load cells, redundant force sensing, ultra-high speed joint controllers, extreme neck travel, high resolution camera and IR systems, and optimized overlapping dual-arm dexterous workspace—just to name a few.
For a dramatic video of R2, check out GM and NASA Take Giant Leap in Robotic Technology
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Alex A. Kecskes has written hundreds of published articles on health/fitness, "green" issues, TV/film entertainment, restaurant reviews and many other topics. As a former Andy/Belding/One Show ad agency copywriter, he also writes web content, ads, brochures, sales letters, mailers and scripts for national B2B and B2C clients.