Humanoid Robots to pioneer Mars colonisation? Not the script of a sci-fi movie but what could happen in the near future.
NASA, in collaboration with four universities (three in Massachusetts and one in Scotland) is developing a kind of biped human-like robot that could be sent to the red planet.
The robot is designed to carry out vital tasks in environments deadly to human beings. In the short term, these humanoid robots could venture into disaster areas where human lives would be at risk.
“Up in the head, you can see we have a stereo camera pair,” explains professor of computer science Holly Yanco. “We hooked it up to an Oculus Rift, so somebody who’s remotely controlling the robot can see through the robot’s eyes. She also has infrared sensors so that you can have structured light just like Microsoft Connect. Inside the visor is a spinning laser. And then there are other cameras on the body here and lots of touch sensors in the hands as well as the feet.”
The time delay in communication between Earth and Mars makes it difficult to use remote controls to direct robots for building work and emergency repairs. So the robots must be autonomous.
University scientists and students are currently working to improve the robot’s handling and walking capabilities.