It makes perfect sense that the dexterity and finesse involved in applying robotics to complex and tricky medical procedures could have huge bearing on other applications, particularly those that relate to space. It's difficult (not to mention dangerous and expensive) to put people in space and given gravity issues, those trained professionals don't have the same dexterity and flexibility for motor skills that they otherwise would have on earth. Seems like a natural solution.
I agree with you, Beth, but I don't think we should entirely rule out sending humans to space. We need people to fix the machines that may break/inexplicably stop working. Also, and a lot of people may disagree with me here, but I think that human exploration in space can be just as effective, if not more so, than robotic exploration. After all, robots can't think or articulate what they see. While the advances in robotics these days are nothing short of remarkable, there is still something to be said for a human doing the work.
It's significant to note that NASA, in the face of the massive budget cuts it's been subjected to over the past several years, is taking a page from the military in moving from build-it-yourself to using COTS. COTS stands for commercial-off-the-shelf systems. It took the military a good 25 years from talking about COTS to actually doing it on a widespread basis. (Of course, now many soldiers themselves are COTS, but that's another story.) Anyway, so it makes lots of sense for NASA to do this, buy and customize rather than build from scratch, which they can't support.
I didn't mean to imply that we shouldn't send humans into space, Jenn. I totally agree with you. I just think for some of the more mundane chores, have an adept set of robot hands to do the work is definitely a more cost-effective way.
Wow, this story spurred some interesting comments.
Alex, robots as COTS makes total sense to me, having written not long ago for COTS Journal. Thanks for that insight. And as to soldiers being COTS, I nearly fell off my seat laughing, but, you may be right. In any case, I was happy to see NASA making use of existing technology from outside its own sphere that someone else spent the R&D dollars on, another way of defining COTS.
I think Jenn's and Beth's points are also good. Using machines for low-level routine stuff, like servicing, but humans for more difficult troubleshooting makes sense.
I guess this story is a sign of the times: Instead of technology being developed by the space program and trickling down to other industries, here we have technology being developed for the medical industry and then moving up to the space program. Nice story, Ann.
I do thisnk that with the slow process of "killing" NASA, this will be the trend in the technology field. I guess when they work on historical reasearch of islamic contribution to space exploration, they spend less time on real technical developments.
@sensorpro: I know it's been repeated ad infinitum on right wing websites, but can you actually find any evidence that NASA has spent any money on "historical research of Islamic contribution to space exploration"? The most I can find about this is one sentence which a NASA official said in an interview. I can't find any signs of any actual money being spent on this.
After you see that thousands of engineers were let go, shuttles retired, serious cuts in funds for NASA tech developments, coupled with statements like I referred to, do you really think that NASA is doing well.
I do not know how much they spend on that, but what concerns me is that do not spend on the real developments.
China does, Russia does, India does, do I need to say more !?
We need to work to invest in our technology in order to return to being a tech superpower and get jobs for our engineers that spent so much of their lives to study and advance themselves, and not to play with polytical corectness.
Even if we spend $1.00 on that stuff, it is $1.00 too much.
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Biomimicry has already found its way into the development of robots and new materials, with researchers studying animals and nature to come up with new innovations. Now thanks to researchers in Boston, biomimicry could even inform the future of electrical networks for next-generation displays.
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