Feeds

NASA buys cutting-edge Cornish robot

To be dubbed Oooh-Arrr-2-D2, no doubt

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

In a triumph for West Country technical prowess and engineering knowhow, NASA has ordered a robot made in Cornwall. Here's a vid:

Admittedly the Cornish droid - a humanoid contraption powered by compressed air and known as RoboThespian - is not intended for use in space like the mighty, 12-foot-tall Canadian "Dextre" unit or the somewhat less impressive R2 "Robonaut". Rather, the RoboThespian is intended to wow visitors at NASA's Kennedy Space Centre on Cape Canaveral in Florida.

According to the contract award announcement, the space agency will pay $108,570 for the groundbased counterpart to the space station's R2 unit. No official NASA designation other than "Life Like Robot" has so far been promulgated, but given the machine's origins something along the lines of "Ooh-Aarr 2-D2" might perhaps be in order.

The RoboThespian, produced by Penryn firm Engineered Arts, is 5'9" tall, weighs 33kg and comes with a year's warranty once installed on its base. Prospective owners should be aware that it requires both a wall socket and a supply of compressed air, as well as somewhere to plug in its Cat5 network cable and a safety barrier "to prevent contact with visitors".

Readers may also be interested to note that the RoboThespian's central "motion storage and control" brain runs on a 1.6 gig Atom processor and includes 32 GB of solid state memory. There are also a brace of 800 MHz ARM processors for "eye screen and RGB face colour control" and a further 5 multicore processors for "motion and air valve control".

Software-wise, Engineered Arts boss Will Jackson tells us:

RoboThespian is built on Gentoo Linux - we have spent three years developing the core software which we intend to release open source around Xmas this year. The software will work equally well for programming hobby and research robots - it provides an abstraction layer between hardware and high level software, as well as a method for recording and mixing motion routines, controlling text to speech, speech recognition and face recognition and other 'intelligent' modules.

The main reason for not releasing the code OS to date is the incomplete documentation - we will also hope to include a binary package for Ubuntu. We also have a virtual RoboThespian built in Blender which we use to program the real thing.

Perhaps disappointingly given Cornwall's illustrious mining history, RoboThespian is made not of tin but aluminium (chassis) and vacuum formed Polyethylene Terephthalate (body shell). Full tech specs are available here in pdf for those who'd like to know more.

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.