RoboThespian is a programmable, interactive humanoid robot designed to communicate, interact, and entertain. First developed in 2006 by Cornish company Engineered Arts, RoboThespian stands 5'9", with a full range of upper-body movement and human-like eyes. NASA will employ the robot’s third generation as a figurehead — meeting and greeting over 1.5 million visitors per year at its futuristic Cape Canaveral base.
RoboThespian 3’s humanoid movements are powered by a combination of compressed air “muscles” and maxon motors. The A-max and neodymium magnet-powered RE-max motors enable the robot’s hands, arms, and torso.
Currently, at least 78 brushed RE motors are in active duty on the surface of Mars, powering functions on the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers that have so far exceeded their anticipated lifespan by almost seven years.
RoboThespian features an interactive touchscreen interface designed for casual users, including visitors to an attraction or guests in a company’s lobby. The robot includes a choice of Text-to-Speech engines, covering many languages and dialects in male and female voices. Other applications include telepresence, movement tracking, and voice interaction. RoboThespian can also be customized with LED body lighting, and facial animations are generated in real time.
Engineered Arts has already started work on a further 20 RoboThespians. The company has now provided the latest robot with object-tracking and speechrecognition capabilities, enhancing its ability to interact with NASA’s guests.