Sunday, February 7, 2010

Robotics Takes a Giant Leap Backwards



"Thetis of the silver feet came to the house of Hephaistos,
imperishable, starry, and shining among the immortals,
built in bronze for himself by the god of the dragging footsteps.
She found him sweating as he turned here and there to his billows
busily, since he was working on twenty tripods
which were to stand against the wall of his strong-founded dwelling.
And he had set golden wheels underneath the base of each one
so that of their own motion they could wheel into the immortal
gathering, and return to his house: a wonder to look at."
-- Homeros, poet, Iliad, XVIII:369-377, 8th century B.C.

"The programmable self-propelled machine might even go back as far as the 8th century B.C. ... It looks like the search for the earliest programmable robot is far from over." -- Noel Sharkey, computer scientist, July 2007

Robots continue to devolve: NASA, GM Take Giant Leap in Robotic Technology.

Engineers and scientists from NASA and GM worked together through a Space Act Agreement at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston to build a new [sic] humanoid robot capable of working side by side with people. Using leading edge control, sensor and vision technologies, future robots could assist astronauts during hazardous space missions and help GM build safer cars and plants.

The two organizations, with the help of engineers from Oceaneering Space Systems of Houston, developed and built the next iteration of Robonaut. Robonaut 2, or R2, is a faster, more dexterous and more technologically advanced robot. This new [sic] generation robot can use its hands to do work beyond the scope of prior humanoid machines. R2 can work safely alongside people, a necessity both on Earth and in space.

"This cutting-edge robotics technology holds great promise, not only for NASA, but also for the nation," said Doug Cooke, associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "I'm very excited about the new [sic] opportunities for human and robotic exploration these versatile robots provide across a wide range of applications."