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Darmstadt, Germany (SPX) May 09, 2014
Visionary 'rocket scientists' will share their ideas at the TEDx RocketMinds event at ESA's operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany.
Andre Schiele, leading ESA's telerobotics lab, will attempt a very special demonstration of remote robotic operations. Donning an exoskeleton that weighs just 10 kg, he will control a robot at ESA's technical heart in Noordwijk, the Netherlands - over 400 km away.
The robot will copy Andre's arm and hand movements as commands and feedback are sent over the regular cell-phone network.
"Doing this live is nerve-racking," says Andre, "but this is a game-changer. The technology we developed for space has enormous potential for assisting in emergency situations where humans cannot go - like the Fukushima nuclear meltdown or the Deep Water Horizon oil spill."
Sending robots into disaster areas has long been a goal of emergency workers, but electricity and communications networks are often the first to be hit.
As the exoskeleton is battery-powered and sends commands through a cellular network, it can be deployed quickly in an emergency even if the infrastructure in the disaster zone has been damaged. As long as the robot can receive a cell-phone signal, it will work.
A key ingredient is that the remote robot transmits what it 'feels' back to the operator wearing the exoskeleton. This touch-sensitive information allows the fine control needed to cope in difficult situations. For example, different forces are required to move a rock or pull someone out of a collapsed building.
Telerobotics and Haptics Laboratory
All about the robots on Earth and beyond!
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