ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen testing a telerobotics exoskeleton at ESA's technical heart ESTEC in the Netherlands.
Donning an exoskeleton that weighs just 10 kg, an operator can control a robot - commands and feedback are sent over the regular cell-phone network.
Compared to the complex user interfaces typically employed for controlling robots, the aim of the wearable exoskeleton designed by ESA's Telerobotics and Laboratory is to be as intuitive as possible, and in principle capable of controlling many different robots.
Research into controlling robots from afar with robust communications has great potential for use on Earth. Whether searching for earthquake survivors, investigating nuclear fallout or exploring the bottom of our oceans or volcanoes, these are all situations that would all benefit from robotic explorers that can be controlled with limited communications networks.
Both the system’s adaptability and robust design mean they are well-suited for remote areas that are difficult to access or when disasters have destroyed communication networks.
The direct and sensitive feedback coupled with safeguards against excessive forces would allow rovers and robots to carry out delicate operations in the extreme conditions found in offshore drilling and nuclear reactors, for example.