NASA Working On Skin For Space Robots

NASA Goddard technologist Vladimir Lumelsky is setting up a laboratory at Goddard to develop skin for robots that would enable them to "feel" things and respond appropriately based on what they "feel."

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

May 13, 2005

1 Min Read

NASA Goddard technologist Vladimir Lumelsky is setting up a laboratory at Goddard to develop skin for robots that would enable them to "feel" things and respond appropriately based on what they "feel."

The first project is to develop a robot skin embedded with 1,000 infrared sensors that would detect an object, and send the information to the robot's "brain." The brain would digest the information, apply reasoning and react within milliseconds by directing the robot to move. Future skin prototypes likely will have a higher density of sensors on the skin, which will provide the robots with even greater dexterity.

The flexible plastic modules that will house the skin's electronics will have to undergo a lot of testing to make sure they're space qualified and able to withstand radiation and extreme changes in light and temperature.

In addition, embedding the electronics on a large surface material, or printing the skin like wallpaper, presents another major hurdle. Work also is needed in the area of motion-planning development and intelligence.

The sensitive skin was identified as a key technology to develop at Goddard. It would prove vital in situations where humans and robots work side-by-side in the construction of large telescopes and in the operation of both in-space and extraterrestrial equipment.

Video Demonstrations:
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