For use in logistics and distribution, medical and industrial robotics, and hazardous, toxic, or remote environments
Researchers at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC), in collaboration with General Motors and Oceaneering, have designed a state-of-the-art, highly dexterous, humanoid robot: Robonaut 2 (R2). R2 is made up of multiple component technologies and systems -- vision systems, image recognition systems, sensor integrations, tendon hands, control algorithms, and much more. R2's nearly 50 patented and patent-pending technologies have the potential to be game-changers in multiple industries, including logistics and distribution, medical and industrial robotics, as well as hazardous, toxic, or remote environments.
What Makes R2 Unique?
The robot encompasses four elemental systems.
› Hands: R2's unprecedented dexterity in its hands allows it to use many of the same tools that astronauts and industry workers currently use, significantly reducing the need for specialized tools to perform multiple tasks.
› Arms: R2's arms are soft at multiple levels and the robot always knows where its limbs are in space. They have redundant force sensing and R2 can safely work side-by-side with humans as it is currently doing on-board the International Space Station.
› Sensing and Perception: R2 shares senses similar to humans: the ability to touch and see. These senses allow it to perform in ways that are not typical for robots today.
› Interface and Control: R2 can function autonomously or it can be controlled by direct teleoperation. When functioning autonomously, R2 understands what to do and how to do it based on sensory input. The robot uses its vision, force, and tactile sensing to carry out tasks in real time.
The robot has the flexibility to use human tools and adapt to the task at hand, whether serving as an assistant or stand-in for astronauts during spacewalks or handling tasks too difficult or dangerous for humans. For industrial environments, this dexterity is also a key feature, as R2 has the flexibility to roll something out, hold a drill, use a pair of wire-cutters, or sort through a bin of parts. In addition, R2 can handle factory work that is ergonomically difficult, repetitious, fatiguing, or unsafe.
Safely Works Alongside Humans
R2 can do all of these things side-by-side with humans. The robot moves at human speed. Its skin is soft and padded and it can sense through its safety systems when it comes into contact with someone. There are torsion springs inside the robot that provide force control – so when a person pushes away the robot's arm, it gives easily. And the robot always knows where its limbs are, making it safe for operation around people and delicate equipment.
Logistics and Distribution
While robotic technologies are already being used in logistics and distribution, R2 allows for much more complex and delicate operations that require a more sophisticated level of interaction. In terms of handling inventory, R2's dexterous systems allow it to handle a multitude of oddly shaped or delicate items. In addition, it can perform in close proximity to humans, allowing for the use of robotics in areas where it's not currently safe or practical.
Because General Motors explicitly designed R2 to meet the specifications of the factory floor, Robonaut is ideally suited for industrial applications. The robot's ability to retool and vary its tasks offers an enormous advantage in a manufacturing environment. R2 can operate equipment and machines designed for humans, like drills or forklifts. It can turn a gear knob, spin a wheel, fold a piece of fabric, or flip a switch. R2 can also be used in scenarios where dangerous chemicals, biological, or nuclear materials are part of the manufacturing process or in the facility environment.
R2 technologies can aid in a variety of medical applications, ranging from telemedicine to handling the logistics of medical procedures. Similar to the assembly line on a factory floor, a hospital environment involves repetitive tasks that are ripe for automation. R2 technologies would be advantageous during situations where a biomedical hazard poses risks to humans, such as a contagious outbreak or a combat situation. For more routine daily use, it can handle time-consuming tasks of counting, sorting, inspecting, and processing. By having a robot handle these activities, it frees up hospital staff to focus on the work that humans are best at and it also reduces the likelihood for human errors.
› Watch this video: Robonaut Supports Telemedicine Advances
Hazardous, toxic, or remote environments
Robonaut 2 as a whole, or some of its components, can be an invaluable tool for land mine detection, bomb disposal, search and rescue, waste recycling, medical quarantined area, and so much more. By handling chemical and hazardous materials, R2 reduces or eliminates the need for humans to be exposed to dangerous situations. The technology can also relieve humans from the most repetitive, dangerous, and time-consuming parts of oil field work.
How to License R2 Technologies
The entire R2 system is made up of nearly 50 patented or patent pending technologies. These patents cover the robot's interface and controls, as well as its sensors, actuators, and mechanical parts. All of these technologies are available for licensing.
Licensing opportunities exist not only for the total R2 package, but also for licensing a single R2 technology or a small number of bundled technologies. Please contact us to learn more about licensing opportunities.
Technologies Available for Licensing or Partnering
R2 Opportunity Webcast
NASA Tech Briefs held a webinar on June 20, 2013 describing the R2 technology and licensing opportunity.
Use the "prev" and "next" arrows to skip to specific sections of the Webinar. The sections include:
Scene 1: JSC Overview, Scene 2: R2 Technical Description, Scene 3: R2 Commercial Applications,
Scene 4: Working with JSC, Scene 5: Questions and Answers
Links to More Robonaut 2 Information
- Robo-Glove & NASA Technology Licensing Opportunities
This wearable human grasp assist device helps reduce the grasping force needed to operate tools for an extended time or for repetitive motion tasks. The device allows the user to tightly grip tools and other items for longer periods of time without experiencing muscle discomfort or strain. The Robo-Glove also has potential applications in prosthetic devices, rehabilitation aids, and people with impaired or limited arm and hand muscle strength. The Robo-Glove is a patented technology available for commercial technology licensing.
- Robonaut Supports Telemedicine Advances
NASA is always investigating new uses for one of the world's most advanced humanoid robots, Robonaut 2 (R2.) Working with Dr. Zsolt Garami from Houston Methodist Research Institute, R2 was put through the paces to prove its use as a device enabling telemedicine, or the use of electronic communications to conduct medical procedures. After some quick training, an R2 teleoperator was able to guide the robot and perform an ultrasound scan on a medical mannequin. Humans at the controls are able to perform the task correctly and efficiently by using R2's dexterity to apply the appropriate level of force and can track their progress using R2's vision system. The teleoperated R2 also experimented using a syringe as part of a procedure further demonstrating the robot's capabilities for telemedicine. This demonstration of robotic capabilities could one day result in the ability for physicians to conduct complex medical procedures on humans in remote locations, whether on the Earth's surface or even in low Earth orbit.
- Robonaut 2: NASA's Humanoid Robot Video→
- Robonaut 2 Fact Sheet→
- Flash Interactive R2 module→
- NASA JSC Robonaut homepage→
- NASA Robonaut in ISS→
How to Contact Us
If you are interested in partnering or licensing the technologies in Robonaut 2, please contact us. We encourage you to contact our technology transfer specialists to discuss how Robonaut technologies can benefit your research and development efforts.
Michelle P. Lewis
JSC Patent License Manager
Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Group
NASA/Johnson Space Center
Phone: (281) 483-8051