Ron Diftler-Guest lecturer, Thursday, November 10 at 3:00 in the Lecture Hall

Robonaut 2, or R2, arrived on the International Space Station in February 2011 and is currently undergoing testing in preparation for it to become, initially, an Intra-Vehicular Activity (IVA) tool, and then evolve into a system that can perform Extra-Vehicular Activities (EVA).  For approximately one year, the fixed base R2 will perform a variety of experiments using a reconfigurable task board that was launched with the robot. 

While working side-by-side with human astronauts, Robonaut 2 will actuate swiitches, use standard tools, and manipulate Space Station interfaces, soft goods and cables.  The results of these experiments will demonstrate the wide range of tasks a dexterous humanoid can perform in space and they will help refine the methodologies used to control dexterous robots both in space and here on Earth.

NASA and General Motors developed this second generation Robonaut to be a state of the art, dexterous, anthropomorphic robotic torso with significant technical improvements over its predecessor.  Upgrades include: increased force sensing, greater range of motion, higher bandwidth, and improved dexterity.  R2's integrated mechatronic design results in a more compact and robust distributed control system with a fraction of the wiring of the original Robonaut.  Modularity is prevalent throughout the hardware and software along with innovative and layered approaches for sensing and control.  The most important aspects of the Robonaut philosophy are clearly present in this latest model's ability to allow comfortable human interaction and in its design to perform significant work using the same hardware and interfaces used by people.

Dr. Diftler serves as the Robonaut Project Leader at the NASA Johnson Space Center.  Robonaut is a human scale space robotic system designed to assist astronauts, before, during, and after space walks.  The Robonaut Team's latest robot, Robonaut 2 (R2) is the culmination of 15 years of NASA Robonaut development and a highly successful partnership with General Motors.  One of the R2 units was launched on Space Shuttle Discovery in February, 2011 and will soon undergo initial testing onboard the International Space Station.  R2 was designed for safe human interaction, human work speeds and human strength, responsive force control (bandwidth), assembly task autonomy and a simplified human machine interface (HMI).  Dr. Diftler has led this team through the R2 collaboration with GM as NASA's industrial partner, as well as previous collaborations with DARPA, Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt, MIT, UMass, USC, Rice, CMU and the Institute for Human-Machine Cognition.  He is also a member of the International Architecture Working Group, which has representation from China, Europe, Canada, and Japan.  The focus of this group is on evaluating robotic systems for future space applications.

Dr. Diftler holds a B.S.E. Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University, a M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Yale University, and a Ph. D. Mechanical Engineering from Rice University.  Dr. Diftler has published more than 50 peer reviewed technical papers in robotic systems and helicopter dynamics.  He has 11 patents currently in process or awarded in the field of robotics.  Dr. Diftler is a recipient of a 2009 NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Award, a 2004 NASA Public Service Medal, and the 2005 IEEE Humanoids Conference Best Paper Award.