Robonaut 2 (R2)
It’s almost science fiction today. A small machine step towards the autonomous helpers so adored by Freeman Lowell aboard the Valley Forge. The R2 was developed by Dextrous Robotics Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC). It’s the first of the series to be launched into space and its placement within the International Space Station is a part of the learning curve for engineers and managers looking to get robots deeper “out there”. At the moment it’s a torso and sensory head, and with arms developed for agility rather than strength. Without legs and without adequate shielding for the harsh environment of hard space, the R2 is still in its infancy as useful crew member, but it’s already had upgrades to shielding and processors to reduce electromagnetic interference and improve tolerance to radiation and it’s only a matter of time before it’s moving around autonomously.
For me it’s a very early glimpse of the creations that eventually lead to the formation of the Borgendrill Corporation (deep space mining and exploration), which sends autonomous machine colonies out beyond the furthest rim of human experience – and endurance. A situation that eventually leads to the Borgendrill Enigma and the emergence, not yet fully understood, of true AI within the corporate computer system linked to these astronomically distant, ever-chattering, ever-probing, self-repairing labourers.
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