Robonaut 2, the first humanoid robot in space, that can work alongside astronauts during spacewalks has been selected as the NASA Invention of the Year for 2014.
While Robonaut 2 resides aboard the International Space Station (ISS), many of the technologies developed for R2 are being adapted for use on Earth, helping to give it the distinction of an outstanding invention, NASA said.
The robot was chosen from among many other valuable innovations by the NASA Invention and Contributions Board, NASA General Counsel and the NASA Administrator, Charlie Bolden.
These entities evaluated R2 in the following areas: Aerospace Significance, Industry Significance, Humanitarian Significance, Technology Readiness Level, NASA Use, Industry Use and Creativity.
“I am proud of the entire Robonaut team that made this achievement possible and look forward to future robotic firsts that I have no doubt they will accomplish,” said Ron Diftler, project manager for Robonaut in the Robotic Systems Technology Branch at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre.
The first Robonaut, R1, was built as a ground prototype to explore the potential for a humanoid robot to help astronauts during spacewalks by preparing worksites and providing an extra pair of dexterous hands during maintenance tasks.
R2 was co-developed with General Motors (GM) through a Space Act Agreement. R2 is a faster, more dexterous robot than the first iteration of Robonaut.
With more sensing, a greater range of motion and a safety system that allows it to work side-by-side with astronauts, R2 holds great potential to assist with space station activities.
Technologies resulting from R2 include a robotic glove, a robotic exoskeleton and telemedicine applications. The R2 technology has resulted in a total of 39 issued patents, with several more still under review.
The NASA Invention of the Year is a first for a humanoid robot and another in a series of firsts for R2 that include: the first robot inside a human space vehicle operating without a cage and the first robot to work with human-rated tools in space.