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Mechatronics

NASA Explores Humanoid Robot Design

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Beth Stackpole
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Science fiction movie
Beth Stackpole   5/8/2012 8:21:42 AM
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Wow, between this development and Chuck's slide show on intelligent highways and cars, it's quite a wake-up call to the 21st or maybe even 22nd century!

I definitely applaud the idea of sending robots into space to perform the tasks that humans can't or shouldn't. I'm assuming a lot had to go into the design to enable the humanoid machine to function properly despite the laws of gravity. Too bad we're pulling back on space exploration research at a time when we have all this new technology to help uncover valuable insights.

GlennA
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Degrees of freedom ?
GlennA   5/8/2012 8:37:59 AM
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2 degrees of freedom in the wrist, and about 12 degrees of freedom in the hand ?  Is this supposed to be the equivalent of 'axes of movement' ?  I guess the wrist can rotate and bend = 2 axes of motion.  The 'about 12' in the hand may be the finger segmants.  Is it about 12 because they aren't sure how many ? Or because the individual joints have some interferences in certain movements ?

NadineJ
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Re: Science fiction movie
NadineJ   5/8/2012 8:56:54 AM
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This is very cool.  A great first step.  These can also be used in deep sea diving reseach.  SInce 1960, we've been to the bottom of the Mariana Trench 4 times.  We could move faster and even stay down longer if decommpression sickness isn't an issue.

I thought the GM co-branding, on the chest in Nascar-style, was interesting. 

Considering how complex the human body is, the limited mobility it has is impressive.

naperlou
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Re: Science fiction movie
naperlou   5/8/2012 9:31:12 AM
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Beth, activities like space exploration stimulate the economy much more than the construction industry and local government as was done in the recent stimulus.  It also stresses engineering and gets innovation into the "civilian" economy fairly quickly. 

You are correct also that we are steadily moving forward (21st century) despite the economic issues.  This is some cause for optimism.

jhankwitz
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Design by intent
jhankwitz   5/8/2012 11:08:18 AM
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I can understand configuring a new robot to look like a human only to the extent that it will be operating equipment designed to be operated by humans.  Human shape and configuration evolved under the strong effect of gravity. 

If we're building robots and other equipment for use in space,  it may be far more practical to omit robot design features used to deal with gravity such as legs, feet, and toes for transport and arms, hands and fingers for manipulation.  I would think robots should look more like an octipus that evolved in near weightlessness. Equipment and robots would best be designed to work with each other, eliminating the physical human factors.

It almost looks like they're trying to put HAL's brain into a modified R2D2 body.  Heaven help us when it becomes self aware.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Design by intent
Ann R. Thryft   5/8/2012 1:33:22 PM
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jhankwitz has an interesting point--how much do robots in space need to have human parts or features when gravity isn't an issue? I think part of the answer is that gravity is an issue in a space station, and that fingers or some such appendage for manipulating is needed, at least when Robonaut 2 needs to flip switches, or when surgical robots are being deployed to service or refuel satellites:
http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=237609

Nancy Golden
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Re: Science fiction movie
Nancy Golden   5/8/2012 9:53:42 PM
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I agree Beth, it is a shame that space exploration research has been curtailed. Not only did it generate new technology and bring people a level of enthusiasm and solidarity in past decades that little else could come close to - it also created invaluable spin off technologies that both improved life and stimulated the economy.

That is another important aspect of STEM, keeping space in front of our kids so that they still grow up with a sense of wonder that only the stars can bring about. We are frequent visitors to the McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis and brought our son on his 13th birthday for a special viewing that is only held a few times a year through the 109" telescope. I am guessing there were about thirty people in our group and our son was the only kid...

TJ McDermott
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Re: Design by intent
TJ McDermott   5/8/2012 10:42:20 PM
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jhankwitz, I can accept HAL in an R2D2 body.  Your image of an autonomous octopus is the thing of nightmares.

Human interaction with automation is branching out in many interesting ways.  Engadget.com (sorry for the reference to another technology site) has numerous articles about studies of ever-more-realistic human-form robots.

An octopus is absolutely a smarter, more efficient form factor.  It may not be accepted by its users though.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Design by intent
Beth Stackpole   5/9/2012 6:49:43 AM
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Talk about the stuff of nightmares ... but given the issues that Ann mentioned, an octopus design might have more applicability in terms of serving up more "hands on deck" for jobs that require dexterity when it comes to small motor skills.

apresher
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Humanoid Robots
apresher   5/9/2012 9:21:51 AM
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We did a story with GM on this, and part of their motivation is to explore the possibilities of humanoid robots being used in assembly areas. That would require working closely with human workers which creates interesting issues related to safety and productivity.  Interesting technology.

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