Humans do not have to be physically present in space to do useful work there. ESA’s Telerobotics and Haptics Laboratory is developing robotic technologies for advanced human–machine interaction, extending the human sense of touch to remote locations.
PhD student Jan Smisek is pictured at the Lab, putting a robotic manipulator through its paces.
Based at ESA’s technical heart ESTEC, in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, the Lab aims for robot operators to feel as though they are right there – up in orbit or down on a planet.
Developments include bilateral control systems where a movement on the ‘master’ side is mirrored on the ‘slave’ side.
Stereo cameras offer 3D vision, while as the robot manipulates objects the operator also experiences force-feedback, as found in high-end video game joysticks, to gain a working sense of touch.