No race to create bots – NASA


At the 2018 Collision Conference, NASA’s Intelligent Robotics Group was present, and this was nothing less than a shock as NASA is neither a startup nor an investor, then why did NASA show up on such a stage where everyone else was preaching their business model?

The motive was pure, just like any other industry, NASA too wants to utilise the autonomous and artificial intelligence system to the fullest. NASA believes that Tech cannot be advanced while we remain inside the eggshell, one needs to open up to the possibilities and explore them from wherever they are. Our ecosystem is a bit complex; we wish to collect instead of giving out. NASA wants not only to set an example by embracing the so-called outsiders but has an aim of making this event global.

Robots are always at the top in our list of fancy. For decades we have been thinking of fully functional low-cost machines which can minimise human effort and deal with routine and repetitive jobs. ‘Small wonder’ wasn’t popular for no reason. 

NASA has been working on this project for decades. The latest update being ‘a humanoid housed on the ISS – called Robonaut’. This project has been roughly pursuing for eighteen years. The purpose of the project was to keep the astronauts free from performing repetitive actions in the space. 

NASA has been in a way running a Space Robotics Challenge like DARPA but in the space. A newer robot – ASTROBEE – free flying trio- is ready to be shipped to space in the ISS. This robot will perform the work of monitoring air quality, light, and sounds etc. Astrobee would be able to fly and conduct an investigation, which is essential. But Astrobee was not developed by NASA alone. ROS (Robot Operating System) used in the robot comes from the Open Source Robotic Foundation, for instance.

The initiatives by NASA are only going to soar in the future. This suggests that NASA has specific philosophical questions running in its head regarding the safe usage of this advanced technology. The free piece of tech does need to have a philosophical aspect, as what we intend to do with these bots should be what they do. The challenge NASA is facing or the question it is looking for an answer to is – how much freedom should be given to these autonomous devices, so we do not have to face a ‘Terminator’.