Humanoid robot astronaut set to launch into space

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The first humanoid robot astronaut is set to be launched into space this year to operate onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Robonaut 2 (R2), which was jointly developed by the NASA and General Motors, makes its visual decisions using the imaging software Halcon from MVTec.

R2 will be onboard the space shuttle Discovery mission STS-133 destined for the ISS. It will be the first humanoid robot in space, and although its primary job is teaching engineers how dexterous robots behave in space, the hope is that it could one day venture outside the station to help spacewalkers make repairs or additions to the station or perform scientific work.

Robonaut 2 is able to see autonomously and therefore take independent decisions. R2 has fully functional camera eyes and hands used for gripping and working. It is able to carry out many of its tasks due to the sophisticated image processing developed by NASA with Halcon algorithms.

The software package, Halcon, includes all necessary technologies for 3D image processing. It is used to detect objects in their 3D pose from stereo images and to process these in real time. Thus, R2 can see in 3D and therefore decide in fractions of a second where and how its hands will pick up and deposit objects.

The robot will initially be operated inside the Destiny laboratory for operational testing, but over time its uses could expand.