The robot is one of 44 innovations featured in Spinoff 2012, an annual NASA publication that documents how space technologies and capabilities have been expanded for commercial use. Since launching in 1976, it has featured more than 1,800 spinoffs in health and medicine, transportation, public safety, consumer goods, energy and environment, information technology and industrial productivity.
To bring new products and services to life, NASA partners with the private sector, academia, federal agencies and other organizations. "NASA missions are used by pioneering individuals and organizations to create and improve products and services that make life better here on Earth," said the agency's chief technologist Mason Peck, in a written statement. "Those benefits include everything from life-saving medical devices to improved solar power, fuel-saving aircraft designs and enhanced manufacturing techniques."
[ Now that Curiosity is busy exploring Mars, what's next for NASA? Read NASA Details 2013 Plans. ]
Some of the technologies spotlighted in Spinoff 2012 include:
-- A search-and-rescue system that is enabled by satellite ground stations. NASA said the system has saved more than 30,000 lives to date.
-- A superconductor material for future aircraft propulsion systems has been repurposed to create lower-cost MRI medical imaging devices.
-- An invisible coating, developed by a NASA partner, has the ability to break down pollutants and eliminate odors. It could potentially be used for more efficient solar cells and sanitizing air in the homes of people suffering from cystic fibrosis, among other functions.
-- A silicon-based archiving technology has been developed to preserve records in a format resistant to fire and water damage.
-- The James Webb Space Telescope, which is slated to launch in 2018, features massive mirrors that have been incorporated into technology for mapping the eye and diagnosing medical conditions.
-- A solar concentration technology is helping a company move renewable solar power into mainstream use.
NASA claims spinoff technologies improve and save thousands of lives, and contribute to economic growth by generating revenues for companies and creating new jobs.
As an example, Hyper Tech Research, the company that makes advanced superconductors for use in low-cost MRI devices, has generated $3 million in revenue. Approximately 14,000 jobs were created across different industries, based on polls from companies featured in Spinoff between 2000 and 2012, according to NASA.
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