Shadow Robot Company, experts at grasping and manipulation for robotic hands, will join “AVATAR X” program, a new space avatar program led by ANA HOLDINGS INC. (ANA HD) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). AVATAR X is set to launch as a multi-phase programme to revolutionise space development and make living on the Moon, Mars and beyond, a reality.
The programme aims to accelerate the integration of technologies such as robotics, haptics and Artificial Intelligence (AI), to enable humans to remotely build camps on the Moon, support long-term space missions, and further explore space from Earth. To make this possible, Shadow will work closely with the programme’s partners, leveraging its unique teleoperation system that it has already developed and that is also available to purchase.
The new system comprises of clever elements including Shadow’s infamous Dexterous Hand (which can be controlled by a CyberGlove worn by the operator) attached to a UR10 robot arm (controllable by a PhaseSpace motion capture tool worn on the operator’s wrist). Both the CyberGlove and Motion Capture wrist tool have mapping capability so that the Dexterous Hand and the robot arm can mimic an operator’s movements.
Revolutionary for its field, the system allows remote control of robotic technologies while providing distance and safety. Furthermore, Shadow uses an open source platform providing full access to the code to help users develop the software for their own specific needs.
The teleoperation system by Shadow will be deployed and enhanced at the world’s first space Avatar (teleoperation) test field, the “AVATAR X Lab@OITA”, which will be built in the southern Japanese prefecture of Oita. In addition to providing key telecommunication and research infrastructure necessary to conduct Avatar tests, unique structures designed by architecture firm CLOUDS Architecture Office, will be built to house research facilities as well as restaurants and other amenities.
The technologies developed at the AVATAR X Lab@OITA is to be transported and tested at a space station in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), and eventually used to explore the moon, Mars and beyond.
Shadow’s Managing Director, Rich Walker says “We’re really excited to be working with ANA HD and JAXA on the AVATAR X programme and it gives us the perfect opportunity to demonstrate how our robotics technology can be leveraged for avatar or teleoperation scenarios away from UK soil, deep into space. We want everyone to feel involved at such a transformative time in teleoperation capabilities and encourage all those interested to enter the AVATAR XPRIZE competition.”
ANA Press release:
https://www.ana.co.jp/group/en/ – ANA’s Website
http://global.jaxa.jp/ – JAXA’s Website
https://ana-avatar.com/english.html – ANA AVATAR Vision Website
https://avatar.xprize.org/ – Avatar XPRIZE competition page