Space Shuttle Discovery has been cleared for launch and will embark on its final mission next Monday. Joining the six seasoned astronauts onboard will be Robonaut 2, the humanoid robot that was developed by NASA and General Motors.
Robonaut 2, known as R2 to his friends, is expected to assist his fellow space travelers in the Internatiional Space Station's Density Lab. R2's hand and finger dexterity will allow him to relieve crew members of repetitive tasks. At present, R2 is just a torso with a head, arms and hands, but NASA says he might be joined later with another robotic project called Centaur 2 which is all-terrain vehicle. A part humanoid, part land rover would certainly make for an interesting sight.
Are you wondering why General Motors has gotten into the robot building business? Alan Taub, GM's global R&D VP says, "We envision the R2 technology transfer will enable GM to build better, safer, higher quality vehicles in a more flexible, more competitive and safer manufacturing environment." As you watch Robonaut 2 function in the video below, are you envisioning safer cars? Or are you envisioning a multitude of humanoid torsos working on assembly lines in GM plants? Picture R2 wearing a work shirt and carrying a lunch bucket.