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Human Robotic Systems (HRS): Robonaut 2 Technologies

Completed Technology Project
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Project Description

Human Robotic Systems (HRS): Robonaut 2 Technologies

The vision of the Robonaut project is to develop a humanoid astronaut assistant capable of offloading crew work in space.  The goal is to transition from a ground test unit, to an International Space Station (ISS) payload with fixed torso, to a mobile Intra-vehicular Activity (IVA) payload with ISS legs, leading toward a mobile Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) system.  Once the capability as an EVA robotic assistant is proven, Robonaut can be applied as a member of the Human Robotic team in missions beyond low earth orbit.  In addition to developing the hardware necessary to make Robonaut mobile for IVA and EVA, new natural user interfaces (NUIs) for commanding Robonaut, in a game-like, intuitive manner, will be explored. Effectively controlling a high degree-of-freedom robot is a challenging and often safety-critical task. As these systems approach human-like dexterity, the body of the operator becomes the most natural and effective control device. In addition, accurate tracking of the operator's pose enables the rendering of a more immersive virtual representation of the robot's environment. Recent advances in filmmaking motion capture systems and new motion-based controllers for video games have produced sensors that will enable rapid progress towards these goals.

The goal of the Robonaut 2 (R2) Technology Project Element within Human Robotic Systems (HRS) is to developed advanced technologies for infusion into the Robonaut 2 project leading to new capabilities for Robonaut. In FY14, HRS and the Technology Demonstration Mission (TDM) Human Exploration Telerobotics (HET) will collaborate to deliver a mobile IVA Robonaut 2 to ISS. During 2014, the "Robonaut 2 Technologies" project element will develop two technologies: Mobile IVA Robonaut 2 Natural User Interfaces for Advanced Telerobotic Operations The primary work area in this project element is to contribute to sending a mobile IVA Robonaut to the International Space Station (ISS) and to begin using it as a mobile system.  The main area where HRS will contribute to Robonaut 2 in FY14 will be in the area of battery development.  HRS will perform component testing of the engineering development unit (EDU) and complete assembly of the certification unit battery. The development will eventually lead to a robotic system moving and working safely in the same space as Astronauts on ISS.  The second work area under this project element will be to use body-tracking input devices (i.e. Microsoft Xbox Kinect and accelerometer gloves) to immerse an operator in an accurate virtual model of the robot's environment, capture the intent of the operator, and safely execute mobility and manipulation tasks suitable for platforms such as Robonaut 2. Initially, the operator's head position will be tracked in order to render an appropriate point of view in the virtual environment. Next, model-based recognizers will be developed and trained to detect gestures by the human operator and trigger autonomous behaviors on the robotic system. Initial efforts will use the Kinect sensor, with additional potential investigations into other similar or complementary sensors. In FY14, development will focus on further extending our natural user interface system to address the concurrent operation of manipulation and mobility aspects of hybrid robotic systems such as Robonaut 2 with legs (ground only in FY14) or an ATHLETE robot driving while manipulating a payload.

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