Boudreaux - Extra Vehicular Activity Robotic Assistant

It seems that mankind has always sought the companionship of a faithful canine, particularly when venturing into unexplored lands. This is reflected in science fiction in In the Dr. Who TV series, one of the "companions" was a robot dog named K-9 (see below). In Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, the mechanical hound was a favorite companion of firemen. In Isaac Asimov's 1953 serial novel The Caves of Steel, scientists were promoting a culture called "C/Fe", in which humans and robots would be partners. "C" is for carbon and "Fe" is for iron, the basis for the biochemistry of humans and robots respectively.

NASA will continue this partnership, in the form of a robotic rover (sorry about that) like Spirit and Opportunity of Mars exploration fame - Boudreaux, the robotic "dog" (Extra Vehicular Activity Robotic Assistant).


Boudreax the robotic dog (From Nature)

Recently put to the test in the Mars-like Utah desert, Boudreaux is programmed to follow astronauts on its own, planning a route for itself autonomously. It can carry tools, to reduce the burden on astronauts. Its stereovision cameras can relay pictures to a control center, making it the eyes of mission control.

"It's a lot of fun to watch when the test subjects realize how much the robot can do for them," says Kim Tyree, a robotics engineer from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, who works on the project. She says that the test subjects, mostly geology graduate students dressed in space suits, quickly begin to treat the robot just like a canine companion.
(From Nature)


Dr. Who's K-9 (From Companions)

If you are interested in robotic dogs, don't miss DARPA's Big Dog, a companion for soldiers in the field that is intended to run on four legs (wheels don't do as well on uneven terrain). Thanks to Winchell Chung for the lead on this story.

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