Feeds

NASA buys cutting-edge Cornish robot

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

High performance access to file storage

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.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
KILLER ROBOTS, DNA TAMPERING and PEEPING CYBORGS: the future looks bright!
Americans optimistic about technology despite being afraid of EVERYTHING
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.