Robonaut 2 (also known as ‘R2’) arrived on the International Space Station in February 2011. It was designed to help assist astronauts with tasks too dangerous or too mundane for them to perform. Now NASA wants it to be given even more capabilities.
The space agency in conjunction with open innovation platform TopCoder is issuing two challenges to give R2 an upgrade. This is also part of NASA’s on-going program to give the public a role in the future of space exploration.
The first calls for an algorithm that would work with R2’s cameras to allow it to identify buttons and switches on a console fitted with LED lights.
The second challenge builds on the first and is asking participants to devise an algorithm that controls R2’s movements based on this new ‘sight’ capacity.
The winner of the first phase will pick up a check for $10,000 and will be able to use the code elsewhere. The winning entry will also be sent back into open source to enable NASA and others to make use of it.
The long-term aim with R2 is to have it perform even more of mundane tasks so that astronauts can have the time to perform more hands-on experiments.
At some point the robot is due to receive another pair of arms which will allow it to take on more routine tasks such as cleaning.
A formal announcement about the launch of the competition will be made on Monday.