Although it is referred to as the “New GM,” General Motors is not turning over all of its assembly operations to robots like these two, Robonaut 2 (yes, “R2”) models that were developed by engineers and scientists from NASA and GM, with help from Oceaneering Space Systems.
NASA and GM have long had a working relationship, going back to the 1960s, when GM helped out with navigation systems for the Apollo missions, as well as participating in the creation of the Lunar Rover Vehicle, which was the first car on the moon.
In this case, the two organizations are working through a Space Act Agreement at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
NASA is looking for humanoid robots that can help human astronauts out when doing tasks in space—helping in the preparation work, for example, for some extravehicular activity. GM is looking for humanoid robots that can supplement the more conventional industrial robots in factories as well as for vehicle safety research. Said Alian Taaub, GM vp for Global R&D: “When it comes to future vehicles, the advancements in controls, sensors and vision technology can be used to develop advanced vehicle safety systems. The partnership’s vision is to explore advanced robots working together in harmony with people, building better, higher quality vehicles in a safer, more competitive manufacturing environment.”
One of the more interesting aspects of R2 is the dexterity of its end effectors, a.k.a., “hands.” If you have time to watch just a part of the following video, go to about the 2-minute mark. It is unbelievable how the fingers are articulated. Makes you wonder whether, perhaps, there isn’t a little Industrial Light and Magic going on here.
Which also brings to mind: R2. . .D2?