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Humanoid Robot Justin Learning To Fix Satellites

Justin is a dexterous humanoid that can make coffee. Now it's learning to fix satellites

1 min read
Humanoid Robot Justin Learning To Fix Satellites

dlr space robot justin

Justin is a dexterous humanoid robot that can make coffee. Now it's learning to fix satellites.

Justin was developed at the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics, part of the German Aerospace Center (DLR), in Wessling, Germany.

The robot has different configurations, including one with wheels. The space version has a head, torso, and arms, but no wheels or legs, because it will be mounted on a spacecraft or satellite.

The goal is to use Justin to repair or refuel satellites that need to be serviced. Its creators say that ideally the robot would work autonomously. To replace a module or refuel, for example, you'd just press a button and the robot would do the rest.

But that's a long-term goal. For now, the researchers are relying on another approach: robotic telepresence. A human operator controls the robot from Earth, using a head-mounted display and a kind of arm exoskeleton. That way the operator can see what the robot sees and also feel the forces the robot is experiencing.

Justin's head has two cameras, used for stereoscopic vision, which means the operator can get a sense of depth when manipulating the arms. And the arms and fingers have force and torque sensors, to provide feedback to the operator, who are able to know if, say, a screw is tight.

Watch the video to see a reporter operating the robot, which, he quips, probably "costs much more than what I can earn my entire life."

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/v/W2HusqNsIAA&hl=en_US&fs=1& expand=1]

The Conversation (0)

The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
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In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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