A space shuttle missions headed to the ISS soon will have a robotic passenger onboard called Robonaut 2 or R2 for short. R2 is a humanoid robot that is designed to allow NASA to study the interaction between humans and robots. The thought is that R2 might be able to be used by astronauts to perform tasks that might be hazardous for humans in the future.
The benefit for GM was the development of the sensor systems used by the robot that can be applied to things here at home like better sensors for vehicles and other tasks. GM reports that R2 is having great success in its mission on the ISS. R2 is able to use all the tools and equipment on the space station that were designed for humans to use because the hands on R2 are very much like human hands.
R2’s hands have a similar range of motion as human hands and are able to apply precise position and force controls. One big difference between the hands on R2 and the hands on other robots is that the thumb and fingers on R2 are slim and use tendons that connect the skeletal joints to sensors and actuators in the palm.