• Feb 4th 2010 at 2:28PM
  • 61
Robonaut 2 by GM and NASA – Click above for high-res image gallery

Phase three of the robot invasion has begun. Not content to let Honda and Toyota have all the fun, General Motors has gotten into the robot game as well. Working with NASA – all of these planetary takeovers involve space invaders after all – The General has developed "the next generation of robots and related technologies for use in the automotive and aerospace industries." Dubbed Robonaut 2, or R2 (-D2?), this second-generation automaton is a "faster, more dexterous and more technologically advanced robot. This new generation robot can use its hands to do work beyond the scope of prior humanoid machines." Throttling humanoids eerily fits into that description.

GM's interest in the R2 unit is safer plants. "The partnership's vision is to explore advanced robots working together in harmony with people, building better, higher quality vehicles in a safer, more competitive manufacturing environment," according to Alan Taub, GM's vice president for global research and development. They've obviously gotten to him already. All hope is lost. Resistance is futile. Assimilate.

Seriously though, GM's Robonaut 2 differs slightly from Honda's Asimo and the Toyota elderly-helping robot in that it seems to be intended for private use rather than retail sales. We're not sure if it can play a trumpet or not, but follow the jump for a video of your how your new master works.

[Source: General Motors]

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NASA and GM Create Cutting Edge Robotic Technology

-- NASA and General Motors are working together to accelerate development of the next generation of robots and related technologies for use in the automotive and aerospace industries.

Engineers and scientists from NASA and GM worked together through a Space Act Agreement at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston to build a new humanoid robot capable of working side by side with people. Using leading edge control, sensor and vision technologies, future robots could assist astronauts during hazardous space missions and help GM build safer cars and plants.

The two organizations, with the help of engineers from Oceaneering Space Systems of Houston, developed and built the next iteration of Robonaut. Robonaut 2, or R2, is a faster, more dexterous and more technologically advanced robot. This new generation robot can use its hands to do work beyond the scope of prior humanoid machines. R2 can work safely alongside people, a necessity both on Earth and in space.

"This cutting-edge robotics technology holds great promise, not only for NASA, but also for the nation," said Doug Cooke, associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "I'm very excited about the new opportunities for human and robotic exploration these versatile robots provide across a wide range of applications."

"For GM, this is about safer cars and safer plants," said Alan Taub, GM's vice president for global research and development. "When it comes to future vehicles, the advancements in controls, sensors and vision technology can be used to develop advanced vehicle safety systems. The partnership's vision is to explore advanced robots working together in harmony with people, building better, higher quality vehicles in a safer, more competitive manufacturing environment."

The idea of using dexterous, human-like robots capable of using their hands to do intricate work is not new to the aerospace industry. The original Robonaut, a humanoid robot designed for space travel, was built by the software, robotics and simulation division at Johnson in a collaborative effort with the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency 10 years ago. During the past decade, NASA gained significant expertise in building robotic technologies for space applications. These capabilities will help NASA launch a bold new era of space exploration.

"Our challenge today is to build machines that can help humans work and explore in space," said Mike Coats, Johnson's center director. "Working side by side with humans, or going where the risks are too great for people, machines like Robonaut will expand our capability for construction and discovery."

NASA and GM have a long, rich history of partnering on key technologies, starting in the 1960s with the development of the navigation systems for the Apollo missions. GM also played a vital role in the development of the Lunar Rover Vehicle, the first vehicle to be used on the moon.

For more information about Robonaut 2, visit:

For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

For more information about General Motors, visit:

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      One government agency is actually cooperating with another. What will the world come to now?

      This guy looks way too harmless to be a Terminator forbear.. but people have been known to be wrong.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Get rid of the unions,then you won't need robots to build cars and you can price them competively.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Robots will become meaningless once we can make full use of the cheap labor from south of the border.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Another very smart move my GM.

      To most this might sound like a strange development and not related to cars, but this is the type of long-term research that companies like GM need to do to stay competitive not just in the years to come, but in the decades to come.
      • 5 Years Ago
      It took 20 years and almost a billion dollars for Honda to develop the balance, walking and now running capablities of Asimo. Toyota's Partner robot only took 200 full time engineers to do the same. GM takes the easy way out by skipping the legs all together, bolting two robot arms together and done.

      Let hope this guy isn't asked to go anywhere or use a complex instrument.
      • 5 Years Ago
      All this has happened before, and all this will happen again.
        • 5 Years Ago
        So say we all.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Darn. And here was gonna make the first Cylon/BSG reference. :-)
        • 5 Years Ago
        ... And the crowd goes fracking wild.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Can't say I'm surprised. GM, like all the other major auto manufacturers, have huge experience with developing robots capable of complex tasks. Hell, go take a look at all the robot videos on Youtube. Nexi from MIT is really interesting.

      • 5 Years Ago
      "GM teaming up with NASA to build robots."

      That is, until this administration cuts off funding, like it wants to do with the Constellation program. Then we'll have to make do with Russian robots.
        • 5 Years Ago

        As a self-proclaimed spaceflight enthusiast, I think you need to read up a little on the Apollo and STS missions and the development of their platforms. The Obama administration's stated philosophy that we can somehow leapfrog a normalized lunar program in favor of heading straight for Mars is ridiculous and demonstrates a fundamental disrespect for the danger and complexity of such an objective.

        The purpose of using the Moon as an intermediate step is to explore as many of the potential pitfalls of a manned Mars expedition in relative proximity to Earth so that a rescue operation could be conducted for stranded Astronauts in the event of an unforeseen catastrophe. The payloads that would need to be sent to Mars in order to facilitate crew survival for the length of that journey along with the vehicles and fuel to return them to Earth is exponentially more demanding than the limited scope of the Apollo Moon missions. Lunar gravity is ~17% of Earth's, but Martian gravity is more like ~40% so we're talking a very different scale. Further, the Shuttle program clearly demonstrated that reusable vehicles with traditional aeronautical control surfaces are highly inefficient both developmentally and operationally.

        The Constellation program, though expensive by Obama administration standards, was actually a bargain compared to what it would cost to replace the STS, and private companies will not be able to fill that gap because they lack the funding necessary to test systems rigorously enough to be certified for human space flight. NASA's own experience demonstrates that it is an enterprise doomed to budget overruns and limited commercial appeal. Elon Musk or Richard Branson may put tourists in LEO one day, but if you think there was fallout after Challenger and Columbia, just wait until Virgin Galactic kills half a dozen billionaires on vacation - then you'll get to watch U.S. space policy flip 180 degrees back to the public domain.

        I highly recommend that you check out the MIT course on aircraft systems engineering from the iTunes University offerings about the development of the Shuttle. It's very interesting and will help you achieve a more mature understanding of the complexities of manned space flight.
        • 5 Years Ago
        yeah, lets waste money on a mission to the Moon that offers up almost zero scientific value.

        The ridiculous Moon mission was nothing short of corporate welfare for the likes of Boeing and other contractors. The mission was failed from the start - Bush decreed that we would go back to the Moon and allocated no cash to get it done... great!

        There are few people that are more excited about space missions and scientific research than I am, but even I could see what a complete joke a mission to the Moon would be at this point in time - if it was such a great move, we would have gone back in the last 40 years. We obviously had the technology and the know-how, but it was clearly a pointless endeavor from a scientific perspective.
        • 5 Years Ago

        There were more reasons for going back to the moon than you seem to realize. Ever heard of Helium3? I suppose not, and I suppose that you don't know much about the space program either.

        My father has worked on the STS program since it began over 30 years ago. Over that time, he went from having a huge team working with him, to a handful of people. Budget cut after budget cut under Clinton and now Obama have reduced our space program to a joke.

        Why did they cut the budget? Oh, it's wasteful to do meaningful scientific research. Let's give all the money to welfare sponging @$$holes who are "in need", like we're some kind of communist BS country. Ever wonder why the Buran never worked, but the Space Shuttle did?

        We should have SSTO spacecraft by now, and a much larger space station. We should have kept the Orion and Constellation programs, and been back on the moon, doing research and using it as a fueling station to go to Mars. Instead, we'll spend the money on useless driftwood. Obama thinks he can loot his way to prosperity, but he'll just make this empire fall like Rome did, and like most of the bankrupted parts of Europe. Europe reformed, partially, and realized they had to produce things to make money, instead of simply looting it. We should have learned our lessons from their failures.

        It's really pathetic to see people who live in the USA bashing one of the only decent expenditures of government money. I suppose they're the same ones who want to destroy the military, and pretend like China will never be a threat to us. People are such uninformed, slack-jawed, CNN watching idiots nowadays.
        • 5 Years Ago
        My understand was that going back to moon was to begin preparation to set up a launching station from there. With such low gravity a space ship launched from the moon would require far less fuel and allow for faster trips to other planets.
        • 5 Years Ago
        And yet if we spent all the money we wasted on nukes we'll never use on the space program, we could be all the way to Pluto by now, and discovered all kinds of new information and made all manners of discoveries.

        Thanks a lot, Cold War. Not to put too much of a point on it, but literally the best part of the Cold War was the space race.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Much of space travel with humans to far away places (well, far in the context of what we're able to do right now) of course would have "little scientific value." We explore for many reasons, but since the Cold War is over, all we have left is our own curiosity... basically, a very Star Trek type outlook. I share that outlook, but not too many others do.

        There's no real "point" to sending men to Mars... a robot can explore. We want to do it just because we want to do it. It would be an accomplishment for humanity. Eventually, I envision a day where we can easily colonize remote planets. Think of the possibilities
      • 5 Years Ago
      Even their robots look dorky.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Why do I feel like these guys may eventually replace a good portion of UAW workers? This is what happens when your workers are too expensive. Robots do not unionize... well, until the day we will all regret
        • 5 Years Ago
        Well, not sure why I suddenly work at WalMart (since I don't), but at any rate, I'm sure robots don't pay taxes, but *I* also don't have to pay their excessive salary in the price of my vehicle and parts for it, thus saving me money, thus allowing me to spend more at wal-mart, thus ensuring more jobs there and for every else associated with the manufacturing the distribution chain.

        You must think outside of the economic relationship between just two people. big picture! =)
      • 5 Years Ago
      This R2 unit has a bad motivator, look!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Well, if there's any company that can build something with completely too much plastic and absolutely no soul, it would be GM.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Japanese (most) robots look like anime robots. US robots look like people. Just an observation.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Actually I was thinking the GM Robot looks like a double amputee while a robot like Honda's Asimo can actually run.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I think its funny that the robot has a 6-pack.
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