The wave of the future: Robonaut

Space experts say that humans and robots eventually will work side by side on a variety

of projects in space, ranging from building construction and maintenance to advanced medical procedures.

One source of help could be the Robonaut, a humanoid robot that is being developed at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Designed by the Robot Systems Technology Branch as a collaborative effort between NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Robonaut represents the coming wave of artificial intelligence: a general-purpose robot similar in

nature to humans that functions like astronauts on tasks that are not specifically designed for

robots.

"We want to push the edge to have robots look like humans and to do the same tasks,"

said David Kortenkamp, a senior scientist with Metrica Inc., a contractor at the Johnson Space Center.

Although Robonaut may be years away from fulfilling its potential, its advanced tool-handling ability is designed to assist astronauts. Robonaut operates under human control, but Kortenkamp expects to one day see an autonomous robot working in space and adapting to all types of situations on its own.

"The idea is not to replace humans but to assist them," he said.

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