It’s enough to make an old Trekkie like me shed a little tear of joy. Yesterday marked a historic moment between man and robot. The first handshake in space between man and robot occurred aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Commander Dan Burbank , American astronaut aboard the ISS, was the first to be greeted by the humanoid hand of Robonaut 2.
NASA published a YouTube video showing the momentous occasion.
Robonaut 2, R2 for short, is a dexterous humanoid robot designed to assist humans in space. It is the hope of NASA that these robots will be able to aid in construction efforts in space and that they will be able to aid in tasks that may be too dangerous for humans to achieve. General Motors is working in a joint project with NASA to help accelerate the development of these robots. One of the cool things about having a dexterous robot is that they don’t need a separate set of tools just to accommodate them. They are able to use the same tools the astronauts use.
It is apparent that NASA has had a lot of fun with the humanoid. On their website dedicated to Robonaut, they have a fun video where they played a prank on the space station crew. They also have used Robonaut to reach out using social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Robonaut Tweeted “Did you catch that? I don’t have a voice, but I sent you a message — Hello world … in sign language!” after his historic debut yesterday. He went on to say, “What a day! I passed my tests with flying colors!!!”
I look forward to hearing more about the type of work R2 will doing on the space station. In the meantime, if you would like to keep up with Robonaut you can go to its website at http://robonaut.jsc.nasa.gov/default.asp.