Researchers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC), in collaboration with General Motors and Oceaneering, have designed a state-of-the-art, highly dexterous, humanoid robot: Robonaut 2 (R2). R2 is made up of multiple systems and subcomponents: vision systems, image-recognition systems, sensors, control algorithms, and much more. R2’s nearly 50 patented and patent-pending technologies have the potential to be game-changers in multiple industries. One of the most promising applications for the R2 technologies is in the area of hazardous environments. R2 has the capability to work in remote locations separate from the human controller. R2 can function autonomously, or it can be controlled by direct teleoperations.
When functioning autonomously, R2 understands what to do and how to do it based on sensory input. R2’s torso holds the control system, while the visor holds several cameras that are incorporated into the visual perception system. With these capabilities, R2 can reduce or eliminate the need for humans to be exposed to dangerous environments. R2 also has a very rugged four-wheel base called the Centaur 2 (see the figure). The Centaur 2 base can lower or raise itself to and from the ground and turn its wheels in any direction, allowing it to turn in place and drive forward or sideways. This enables the R2 to enter hazardous areas or tackle difficult terrain without endangering its human operator.
Robonaut 2 as a whole, or some of its components, can be an invaluable tool for land mine detection, bomb disposal, search-and-rescue, waste recycling, medical quarantined area, and much more. The suite of technologies provides an ability to manipulate tools to help with a task or tasks when a standard robot may not have the dexterity or sensing capability to get the job done. R2 can pick through nuclear waste, measure toxicity levels, and survey areas too remote or dangerous for human inspection. It can also deal with improvised explosive devices, detect and dispose of bombs or landmines, and operate equipment that can break through walls or doors.