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Robot Performance Moves NASA with Maxon Motors

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article image Robothespian

A versatile robot actor, created in the UK and powered by compressed air muscles as well as motors from Maxon Motors has beaten off international competition to become the public face of NASA's world-famous Kennedy Space Centre.  

Robothespian was first developed in 2006 by Cornish company Engineered Arts and stands 5’9” tall, featuring a full range of upper-body movement and almost-human eyes.

The third generation version of the Robothespian is now being employed by US space agency NASA as a figurehead to meet and greet visitors to its futuristic Cape Canaveral base. 

Robothespian 3's unusually life-like humanoid movements are powered by a clever combination of compressed air muscles and Maxon motors.

Maxon's high performance A-max motors and neodymium magnet-powered RE-max motors are used to give the robot's hands, arms and torso a performance that is reliable and realistic.

Engineered Arts director Will Jackson says that Robothespian 3 is at the cutting edge of bringing technology into the arts.

Challenges include the requirement for the robot to appear natural and engage the audience, quiet movements that need to be precisely controlled as well as the ability to cope with long hours, greeting over 1.5 million visitors per year.

He adds that Maxon’s motors are suitable for meeting these requirements, delivering absolute precision with the reliability needed. 

Although Robothespian will be new to NASA, Maxon’s motors are already making their presence felt in various NASA projects. 

About 78 brushed RE motors are currently in active duty on the surface of Mars, powering key functions on the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers that have so far exceeded their anticipated lifespan by almost seven years.  

Engineered Arts has already started work on another 20 Robothespians, which will be completed by March 2011.

The new robots will have additional powers such as object tracking and speech recognition, enhancing their ability to interact with NASA's guests. Robots are also being produced for research purposes.

Maxon Motor senior sales engineer Ian Bell says that Robothespian will be a great addition to the Space Centre, and Engineered Arts deserves every credit as a growing UK company for winning such a high-profile order against strong, worldwide competition.  

Maxon Motor Australia is part of the global Maxon Motors network, specialising in the supply of high precision motors and drive systems.

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