Humanoids on the Moon

The Times carried this report on an ambitious Japanese attempt to put humanoid robots on the moon. As the article points out, this would be a radical shift from the established American and European projects involving mobile robots that can be made to operate much more robustly.

The first reaction from a lay person is likely to be one of scepticism. However, I think that these robots could do a much better job in space than in my living room (for one thing, my 3-year old daughter will not be there to pose strange and unusual problems from time to time). If they are truly serious about this, I think it could be pulled off in a moon-landing type project – Japan is easily the most suitable country for that sort of monetary and personnel involvement!

The main issue with humanoid robotics seems to be the justification for a complex robot where a simpler one might well suffice. Space exploration – with the myriad risks to human life and associated costs – may well be the sort of application where humanoids (that have the potential to be more general-purpose and re-targetable than any other type of robot) make a spectacular splash in a ‘practical’ application.

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