Move over humans, the robot space race is about to get a lot more real
Rather than risk the lives of their astronauts, Russian government scientists are now working to develop humanoid robots that can perform complex tasks on the outside of the International Space Station (ISS) while astronauts control them safely from within the station.
The Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects, Russia's military research arm unveiled two prototype robot astronauts on February 13th to the media ahead of a public robotics exhibition in Moscow.
One robot, named Fyodor, has two arms and a torso, and is programmed to either mimic an astronaut's actions, be under remote control by a human wearing a special suit, or work autonomously.
"There are no 'human factors': It never gets distracted, never gets ill, has no emotions and is always focused on the task,"Saviour" robotic programme director Sergey Khurs told Russian news site Vesti.
Fyodor is operated in real time by a human in collaboration with computer software. So far, the robot is already able to successfully operate a car, recognising road boundaries and other vehicles on the road. Next, the roboticists plan to have it drive and reach its destination with no human intervention at all.
Currently, astronauts are not allowed to perform space-walks that last longer than eight or nine hours, but a robot could be deployed for a much greater length of time with much less risk to human life.
"We've started work on creating an avatar that will become a crew member of the Russian national orbital station," Russia's deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin said at the press conference. "In perspective, we believe humanoid robots with synthetic vision and AI are not a fairytale."
Russian army developing aim, shoot and heads up communications systems
The other robot prototype on show is a full anthropomorphic platform that controls the robot's movements by coordinating manipulators, kinetics and equilibrium, and is even able to reassume a vertical position if the robot falls.
According to Vesti, the Russian military is working on a great many high-tech inventions that will likely remain classified, but it is known that the Fyodor robot is also being developed to help soldiers deal with threats remotely, such as shooting down enemy drones.
The Russian military has clearly taken an interest in improving its soldiers' capabilities, as the roboticists also showcased a new exoskeleton suit that aims to help soldiers aim and shoot better, as well as provide more strength. They're also developing an 'Iron Man' style heads up communications system with information displayed on the soldier's helmet visor, providing realtime data on surrounding threats.
Source: International Business Times