Robotics, Automation & Control

Access our comprehensive library of technical briefs on robotics, automation & control, from engineering experts at NASA and government, university, and commercial laboratories.

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Method Trains Robots to Collaborate Through Demonstration
Method Trains Robots to Collaborate Through Demonstration

Robots that are adapted to respond to physical human-robot interaction (pHRI) traditionally treat such interactions as disturbances, and resume their original behaviors when the...

Method Trains Robots to Collaborate Through Demonstration
Briefs : Test & Measurement
Cell-Sized Robots Sense Their Environment
Cell-Sized Robots Sense Their Environment

Colloids — insoluble particles or molecules anywhere from a billionth to a millionth of a meter across — are so small they can stay suspended indefinitely in a liquid or even in air. Robots about...

Cell-Sized Robots Sense Their Environment
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Technique Allows Mobile Robots to Navigate Autonomously
Technique Allows Mobile Robots to Navigate Autonomously

A technique was developed to quickly teach robots novel traversal behaviors with minimal human oversight. The technique allows mobile robot platforms to navigate autonomously in...

Technique Allows Mobile Robots to Navigate Autonomously
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Robotic Modules Modify Their Environment for Specific Tasks
Robotic Modules Modify Their Environment for Specific Tasks

Given the exact parameters of the task at hand, a robot can assemble a car door or pack a box faster and more efficiently than a human, but such purpose-built machines are not...

Robotic Modules Modify Their Environment for Specific Tasks
Briefs : Medical
Popcorn-Driven Robotic Actuators
Popcorn-Driven Robotic Actuators

When heated, popcorn can expand more than 10 times in size, change its viscosity by a factor of 10, and transition from regular to highly irregular granules with surprising force. These unique qualities can...

Popcorn-Driven Robotic Actuators
Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Engineering Soft Materials that Mimic Neural Tissue
Engineering Soft Materials that Mimic Neural Tissue

A process for engineering next-generation soft materials with embedded chemical networks that mimic the behavior of neural tissue lays the foundation for soft active matter with highly...

Engineering Soft Materials that Mimic Neural Tissue
Briefs : Aerospace
Insect-Inspired Drone Deforms Upon Impact
Insect-Inspired Drone Deforms Upon Impact

Origami manufacturing has led to considerable advances in the field of foldable structures with innovative applications in robotics, aerospace, and metamaterials; however, existing origami are either...

Insect-Inspired Drone Deforms Upon Impact
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Hybrid Silicone-Fabric Sensor for Wearable Robots
Hybrid Silicone-Fabric Sensor for Wearable Robots

Wearable technologies are exploding in popularity in both the consumer and research spaces, but most of the electronic sensors that detect and transmit data from wearables are made of hard,...

Hybrid Silicone-Fabric Sensor for Wearable Robots
Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
3D-Printed Active Materials for Robots
3D-Printed Active Materials for Robots

The Army uses robots that are structurally rigid, making them impractical when performing military operations in highly congested and contested urban environments where covert maneuvering is critical...

3D-Printed Active Materials for Robots
Briefs : Medical
An Artificial Nerve System Developed at Stanford Gives Prosthetic Devices and Robots a Sense of Touch
An Artificial Nerve System Developed at Stanford Gives Prosthetic Devices and Robots a Sense of Touch

Stanford and Seoul National University researchers have developed an artificial sensory nerve system that can activate the twitch reflex in...

An Artificial Nerve System Developed at Stanford Gives Prosthetic Devices and Robots a Sense of Touch
Briefs : Motion Control
Autonomous Crop-Counting Robot
Autonomous Crop-Counting Robot

Today's crop breeders are trying to boost yields while preparing plants to withstand severe weather and changing climates. To succeed, they must locate the genes for high-yielding, hardy traits in crop...

Autonomous Crop-Counting Robot
Briefs : Materials
Modified, 3D-Printable Alloy for Flexible Electronics and Soft Robots
Modified, 3D-Printable Alloy for Flexible Electronics and Soft Robots

Liquid metal printing is integral to the flexible electronics field. Additive manufacturing enables fast fabrication of intricate designs and circuitry. The field features...

Modified, 3D-Printable Alloy for Flexible Electronics and Soft Robots
Briefs : Motion Control
Fast, Low-Voltage Actuator for Soft and Wearable Robotics
Fast, Low-Voltage Actuator for Soft and Wearable Robotics

The unique capabilities of soft robots are to bend, deform, stretch, twist, or squeeze in all the ways that conventional rigid robots cannot. Today, it is easy to envision a world in...

Fast, Low-Voltage Actuator for Soft and Wearable Robotics
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Hydraulic-Based Spherical Robot

Current spherical robots rely upon rotating mechanical weights inside the sphere to change the center of gravity of the sphere, causing the robot to roll. The use of rotating mechanical weights is not optimal due to the reliance upon moving parts, which can present burdensome maintenance issues. It would be...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Active Response Gravity Offload System

NASA has used two systems to train astronauts for weightlessness. The first is the Reduced Gravity Simulator that suspended the astronaut at an angle of 80.5 so that only 1/6th of his or her weight was supported by the ground, while the rest was supported by a pulley system. The other system, designed...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Integrated Ultra-Wideband Tracking and Carbon Dioxide Sensing System
Integrated Ultra-Wideband Tracking and Carbon Dioxide Sensing System

Recent findings indicate that frequent, short-term crew exposure to elevated CO2 levels, combined with other physiological impacts of microgravity, may lead to a...

Integrated Ultra-Wideband Tracking and Carbon Dioxide Sensing System
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Transparent Eel-Like Soft Robot Swims Silently Underwater
Transparent Eel-Like Soft Robot Swims Silently Underwater

An eel-like robot was developed that can swim silently in salt water without an electric motor. Instead, the robot uses artificial muscles filled with water to propel itself. The...

Transparent Eel-Like Soft Robot Swims Silently Underwater
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Nano-Sized Actuator Lifts Many Times its Weight
Nano-Sized Actuator Lifts Many Times its Weight

Actuators are used in a wide variety of electromechanical systems and in robotics, in applications such as steerable catheters, aircraft wings that adapt to changing conditions, and wind...

Nano-Sized Actuator Lifts Many Times its Weight
Briefs : Imaging
Polymer-Based 2D-to-3D Transformable Surfaces

Technologies using stretchable materials are increasingly important. Yet, in general, it is not possible to control how they stretch with much more sophistication than inflating balloons. A method was developed that allows the calculated transformation of 2D stretchable surfaces into targeted 3D...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Novel 3D Printing Method Embeds Sensing Capabilities Within Robotic Actuators
Novel 3D Printing Method Embeds Sensing Capabilities Within Robotic Actuators

Soft robots inspired by nature can crawl, swim, grasp delicate objects, and even assist a beating heart, but none of them has been able to sense and respond to the...

Novel 3D Printing Method Embeds Sensing Capabilities Within Robotic Actuators
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
3D Printing of Shape-Shifting Smart Gel
3D Printing of Shape-Shifting Smart Gel

A “4D printing” method was developed for a smart gel that could lead to the development of living structures in human organs and tissues, soft robots, and targeted drug delivery.

3D Printing of Shape-Shifting Smart Gel
Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Control for Molecular Machines
Control for Molecular Machines

Scientists around the world are working on new technologies for the nanofactories of the future, which one day could be used to analyze biochemical samples or produce active medical agents. The required...

Control for Molecular Machines
Briefs : Medical
Miniature “Pop-Up” Robot Combines Micrometer Precision and High Speed
Miniature “Pop-Up” Robot Combines Micrometer Precision and High Speed

Because of their high precision and speed, Delta robots are deployed in many industrial processes, including pick-and-place assemblies, machining, and welding. Delta...

Miniature “Pop-Up” Robot Combines Micrometer Precision and High Speed
Briefs : Motion Control
Load/Position Control of Rigidly Coupled Electromechanical Actuators
Load/Position Control of Rigidly Coupled Electromechanical Actuators

A technique was developed to prevent cross-coupling in systems where two or more linear electromechanical actuators (EMAs) are rigidly connected, and are in danger of...

Load/Position Control of Rigidly Coupled Electromechanical Actuators
Briefs : Motion Control
Autonomous Robotic Self-Righting

Robots are increasingly being used for various applications including search and rescue operations and combat situations. Unfortunately, during the performance of maneuvers, a robot may fall or tip over, preventing it from moving normally. Controlling the robot to successfully right itself can be a difficult and...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
System and Method for Managing Autonomous Entities Through Apoptosis

This NASA innovation is a biologically inspired system management method designed to make sensor webs as well as other autonomous and autonomic systems more self-directing and self-managing. Based on the mechanisms of cell apoptosis, this method ensures safe and correct...

Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Safe2Ditch Technology
Safe2Ditch Technology

Highly capable small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) provide substantial business opportunity, especially if allowed to operate in the suburban market. Reliability issues force the use of a safety pilot for each vehicle...

Safe2Ditch Technology
Briefs : Motion Control
Orangutank Robotic Pipe Traveler
Orangutank Robotic Pipe Traveler

The Orangutank™ is a remote-controlled, tethered robotic platform for traveling from one pipe to another using a network of vertical pipes for support. It combines specialized robotic grippers to provide...

Orangutank Robotic Pipe Traveler
Briefs : Sensors/Data Acquisition
Self-Learning Robot Hands Adapt to Grasp Objects
Self-Learning Robot Hands Adapt to Grasp Objects

Anew grasp system with robotic hands works without previously knowing the characteristics of objects, learning by trial and error. The robot features two hands based on human hands in terms of...

Self-Learning Robot Hands Adapt to Grasp Objects
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Robotic Gripper for Satellite Capture and Servicing
Robotic Gripper for Satellite Capture and Servicing

The robotic gripper was developed at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center as part of a robotic satellite servicing mission. The gripping device can be used to autonomously or remotely grasp and...

Robotic Gripper for Satellite Capture and Servicing
Question of the Week
Would You Own a Robot Pet?