In space, nobody can hear you be uncivil towards someone. That’s why it’s nice to see commander Dan Burbank and Robonaut 2 shaking hands in the middle of the International Space Station.
This little bit of robo-human relations came after the crew finished a long series of initial tests that began when the robot arrived on the ISS around a year ago. According to NASA, the next step is to test the robot’s vision systems and let it fiddle with taskboards meant to look like the ISS’ actual controls.
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Ultimately, the hope is that Robonaut 2 will take over repetitive and dangerous tasks that astronauts don’t want to do. Over the past year, the crew’s been testing it on the side, ensuring it functions correctly in zero gravity.
What does it feel like to shake hands with a space robot? Very enjoyable, according to Burbank:
For the record, it was a firm handshake. Very nice. Nice job on the programming and all the engineering. Quite an impressive robot.
Just to reiterate, you always want to make sure the robot you’re dealing with looks you in the eyes and has a nice, firm handshake, especially if it’s taking your daughter out on a date — although if it repeatedly screams “Assimilate!” or owns a motorcycle, you might want to rethink things.
Robonaut 2 is also able to perform sign language. After the historic handshake, the robot signed “Hello world,” the first communication it’s had with the general public outside of its Twitter account.