NASA’s history of technological achievements has allowed mankind to probe the furthest reaches of space. In addition to facilitating human exploration of other planets, one of the agency’s upcoming initiatives will hopefully make your household chores easier in the future.
“I’m prepared for it, you see. I’m sick of washing laundry and dishes “Apptronik’s CEO, Jeff Cardenas, explains.
Apptronik, a robotics startup located in Austin, Texas, is collaborating with NASA to develop Apollo, a 5-foot-8-inch, 160-pound humanoid robot designed for a wide variety of tasks. The robot is being developed to aid in space, business, and most intriguingly, domestic activities.
Apollo will be built to handle a wide variety of functions in a variety of settings; its primary purpose is to relieve people of chores they would rather not perform.
“The initial things that these robots are going to do are very sort of simple things, like move objects,” Cardenas says. “Things that we’re exerting a lot of energy on, and I think what this will do is free humans up to do things that are much more worthy of our time, and our talent.”
In 2013, during the DARPA Robotics Challenge, NASA and Apptronik collaborated for the first time to create NASA’s Valkyrie Robot (DRC). The robot Valkyrie, with its humanoid form and wide range of capabilities, was like something out of a science fiction film.
Thanks to the success of that collaboration, in September NASA announced that Apptronik will be its commercial partner in developing the next generation of multipurpose robots, Apollo among them.
Engineers are using what they discovered while building Valkyrie to create humanoid robots that can conquer the planet and beyond.
According to Cardenas, “what we’ve been doing as a firm is basically developing all the technology since Valkyrie to make it ready to market, to move from R&D, and move to the real world.”
In March of 2023, Apollo will make its first public appearance at South by Southwest. Apptronik will then spend the remainder of that year collaborating closely with a small number of customers to roll out the robot and collect data on its applications. It won’t be until 2024 that deployment gets more widespread.
The robot’s applications span the commercial, space, and domestic spheres, in that order, from highly organised to less so.
Cardenas explains, “Structured implies you can govern the environment.” As the speaker puts it, “Unstructured implies the atmosphere is incredibly dynamic — and there’s no more dynamic setting than the house, right?”
For Apollo to join your household permanently, he must first be reasonably priced, risk-free, and flexible.
Assistive robots for the home have been available for some time, although in more basic guises and with fewer features. For instance, a Roomba does an excellent job of sweeping, but it is not capable of doing other chores such as emptying the garbage. But in business settings like warehouses, where activities like transporting boxes are common, a distinct class of robot is used. Prior to this, the idea of creating a multi-purpose robot on par with Apollo looked far-fetched.
So, why is NASA, which specialises in aeronautics and space exploration, working on a project with broad terrestrial applications? Dexterous Robotics Team Lead at NASA JSC Shaun Azimi believes helping the greatest number of people is a priority.
Space exploration technology development is only one of NASA’s priorities, according to Azimi. We hope that the development initiatives we do with our partners will lead to these technologies being used on Earth, and that as many people as possible will be able to take use of them for the greatest good of all mankind.
The commercial sector is one area in which Apollo will be able to greatly assist humankind. By performing the tasks that people don’t particularly enjoy but which are necessary for the continued functioning of business and the economy, Apollo will help to alleviate problems in the supply chain.
There has been a lack of workers in the United States ever since the epidemic began. A research by the National Bureau of Economic Research estimates that as of June 2022, about half a million Americans had been forced to stop looking for employment due to complications with COVID-19. As a result, it’s more important than ever to fill the voids without displacing people from their jobs in the process.
I don’t think we’ll be replacing anybody very soon,” adds Azimi. However, one day we may be able to build robots that are useful in helping humans.
In particular, this is true for any space-bound robots. Maintenance and inspection of equipment are two examples of the routine but crucial tasks that will be assigned to these robots.
Human expeditions to the moon and Mars, among other celestial worlds, will rely heavily on the infrastructure that Apollo will help establish. In order to prepare the planet for a longer stay before the crew arrives, the robots would travel there ahead of time. To reiterate, the real crew is still crucial to the success of the mission.
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