The ballerina gracefully dances on a small stage. She is followed not by a male partner, but by a robotic arm manipulator that seems to sense her every move.


For NASA Goddard Space Flight Center technologist Vladimir Lumelsky, the performance captured on the videotape neatly shows the future of robotics.



It also demonstrates an advanced technology that Lumelsky hopes to develop as part of the push from Goddard in Greenbelt, Maryland to develop niche robotics capabilities critical for carrying out NASA’s “Vision for Space Exploration.”



Lumelsky, until recently a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has begun setting up a laboratory at Goddard to develop a high-tech covering that would enable robots to sense their environment and react to it, much like humans respond when something or someone touches their skin.



Such a technology, which he refers to as a “High-Tech Skin,” is essential for carrying out the Vision for Space Exploration because it depends heavily on humans and robots working together under a variety of working conditions, many of them highly unstructured, Lumelsky said.



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